Georgia Power

Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement

Rock Hawk Effigy and Trails: The Outdoor Classroom

Summary

Georgia Power - Rock HawkRock Hawk is a stone effigy, estimated to be more than 2,000 years old and is believed to be one of just two such structures east of the Mississippi River.  Both are believed to have been used in a ceremonial manner by Indian tribes who inhabited the river valley thousands of years ago. In partnership with state, local and county agencies, Georgia Power led the preservation and development of a 1,000-acre project centered around the rare rock formation.  Enhancements included developing more than 15 miles of hiking and biking trails, displays outlining the history and wildlife of the area, an outdoor museum showcasing 12,000 years of local history, and a unique archery range. The Rock Hawk Park attracts more than 70,000 visitors every year, including many school groups.  Atlanta Magazine added the area to its 2013 list of Georgia’s 100 Top Heart Pounding, Adrenaline Pumping Adventures.

Background

The Rock Hawk is near Georgia Power’s Lake Oconee, formed by the Wallace Dam Project FERC #2413.  The effigy itself consists of thousands of pieces of milky quartz rocks.  Archaeologists believe it once measured 132 feet from wing tip to wing tip, and 100 feet from the head to tail. Five hiking and biking trails now meander more than 15 miles through the Oconee Wildlife Management Area and along the shoreline of Lake Oconee.  The trails intersect with Georgia Power’s Lawrence Shoals campground and a waterfowl viewing area and include historical and educational panels where visitors can learn about the history and wildlife of the area.  The trails have been enjoyed by thousands of hikers, bikers and nature enthusiasts each year.

Challenges

Providing recreational opportunities in an area with such sensitive resources required extensive study and careful consideration. Cultural and natural resource studies allowed us to modify trail designs to avoid impacts to significant resources. Our comprehensive historical literature review also formed the basis for much of the interpretive material along the trails.

To protect the future of Rock Hawk the company erected a fence around the mound.  Visitors can now view the effigy from above via an observation tower. Adding infrastructure while maintaining the natural look and feel of the area provided its own challenges but visitors now have safe, well-marked trails through the area.

Innovation

Two separate archery ranges were added to the property, one of which is unique in its population of artificial animals.  Fifteen life-sized stuffed animals are located throughout the hunting range to provide a realistic experience for archers.  The ranges are often used by individuals, scouting troops and schools. In 2013, Georgia Power Company joined together with Putnam County Middle School to introduce a pilot program that integrated education with recreation. In the past, area students had the ability to visit the Wallace Dam facility for tours, or to visit the Lawrence Shoals Recreation Area, but never had the opportunity to visit both areas together. The program consisted of hydro electricity production, hiking and wildlife safety, archery, and water safety.

Results

Rock Hawk Park attracts about 70,000 visitors annually with a growth trajectory of 100,000 in three-to-five years. The site offers a historical and archaeological educational experience enhanced by the rare combination of a large lake, a major river, wetlands and varied forest and fields that attract a wide variety of wildlife.  The Putnam County school program will be offered to other lake area schools in 2014. Future plans for the Rock Hawk include construction of an outdoor education pavilion to be used for outdoor education by area schools and by the Georgia department of Natural Resources for Hunting Safety and Boating Safety Education.

Stakeholder Quotes

Carla Dabbs, an educator at Putnam County Middle School and a key part of the pilot program said “Georgia Power has developed a ‘gem’.   The Rock Hawk trails, along with Lake Oconee and Wallace Dam, give our students a chance to learn about things that are here in their own back yard. This outdoor education program gives some of our students a chance to visit these areas and opportunities they might not otherwise have the chance to take advantage of and to learn life skills.” – Carla Dabbs, Teacher, Putnam County Middle School