Unexpected Vistas of Providence Canyon, Lumpkin, Georgia

This past weekend, after being energized by Rick Sammon's HDR and Digital Photography lectures at the Century Center Mariott in Atlanta, my wife and I packed up her little black Scion xD and went on a day trip. The weather was lovely. We couldn't resist. Can you guess where this is?

If you were driven to this point blind-folded and dropped off - you might think that you had been dropped off somewhere in the American Southwest or perhaps the Badlands of the Dakotas. The giveaway, though, is the lush green vegetation. This is Providence Canyon - sometimes referred to as Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon." I think that is wishful thinking and perhaps a hopeful delusion of grandeur. Covering a little over a 1000 acres, Providence Canyon State Park is about seven miles from Lumpkin, Georgia. It is out in the middle of nowhere!

Providence Canyon is not a natural feature. It's a testament to the folly of man's poor stewardship of the earth. The 150' deep gullies were caused by poor farming methods in the 1800's. That's right - Providence Canyon is nothing more than a man-made erosion problem that got out of hand.

You have to hike deep down into the ravines to make out the multi-hue gullies. To get to each "canyon" you hike along several flat, muddy stream beds. If you go, be sure to take along some water-proof shoes. You will get wet and muddy. The canyons are not obvious until you are right upon them. So, just when you think you are wasting time sloshing through the muddy stream bed - stick with it - for as you turn a final bend the vegetation opens up and you find yourself in a bizarre, unexpected vista that seems so out of place in south Georgia.

The colors are intense and varied. Bright sparkling white, deep purple, red, orange, ochre, brown, gray, and black sand, clay, and stone are layered upon one another. Several of the photographs I took with my Canon 5D Mark II were closeups of the layers of colored sand and clay. In several places we saw slabs of limonite (an iron ore) and chert concretions embedded with fossils.

There were only a few visitors to the park. As the hike is strenuous you will want to travel light with your camera gear. Also, bring plenty of water. There are no services in a twenty mile area - other than a small general store in Lumpkin - so you will want to stock up on food, water, and snacks before coming to Providence Canyon. There is no cell phone service either. You will be truly disconnected! The state park parking fee is $5.00. A permit is required for hiking the 7 mile loop. The park closes at 6 PM which makes it hard to stick around for the "golden hours."

Still, it's worth it to stop by and wander around man's great folly called Providence Canyon.

ArticleCarl Olson