The parent rocks surrounding Lake Chatuge, which are metamorphic schists and gneisses, were originally sedimentary rocks made of 2.8 billion year old sand. These sedimentary rocks began metamorphosing sometime between 1.5 and 1 billion years ago during the formation and rifting of the supercontinent Rodinia, and continued metamorphosing 440 million years ago during the collision of a volcanic island arc with the eastern edge of North America.
We did not encounter any true outcrops around the Chatuge Dam, but the shorelines around the dam were lined with heavy riprap. The riprap was largely composed of biotite gneiss, which is believed by the author to be the aforementioned biotite gneiss parent.
Botany of Bell Mountain
[The plant features] three large oval leaves, 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, [which] are arranged in a whorl at the top of stalks rising 3 to 12 inches above the ground. The leaves are sessile and mottled gray-green.
The overland flow and leaf litter work in conjunction with one another to provide rich, wet soil for the plants to grow in. During and after any rain, the large layer of leaf litter will do an excellent job of capturing the vast majority of the overland flow. In turn, there is such a large amount of overland flow due to the steep slope—the land is not flat enough for the water to pool in any depressions.
Human History of Bell Mountain
The ownership of Bell Mountain, like the road leading up to its peak, is convoluted and recently switched again. Bell Mountain was owned by the Georgia Baptist Association Inc., until 1971 when Atlanta advertising executive and Young Harris resident Hal Herrin bought it for $60,000. Herrin bought the land lot for the purposes of preservation, given its exploitation by the Hiawassee Stone Co., in the hands of the Georgia Baptist Association. However, when Bell Mountain was in Herrin’s hands, the mountain face was deeply disturbed by extensive off-road driving. Most recently in 2016, the mountain was gifted by the Hal Herrin Estate to Towns County. In dealing with the deep off-roading troughs, the then-Towns County, Bill Kendall, announced a $150,000 budget to build a paved road leading up to the mountain and a wooden observatory deck for safe 360′ views of the region.
Today, vehicles can now be driven up the face of the mountain on a well-paved road and hikers can challenge themselves post steep hike up the mountain to climb the observatory deck for priceless views of the Hiawassee Lakes region. Another notable feature on the top of the mountain is the extensive graffiti on rock faces, a tradition that apparently was started 20-30 years ago by locals and is a topic of extensive debate regarding its value.
Human History of Chatuge Dam
Chatuge Dam, named after a former 18th century Cherokee settlement once situated near the dam site, is one of three dams owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA was established in the aftermath of the Great Depression in 1933 to provide flood mitigation, electricity generation, and economic development amongst many other purposes to the Tennessee Valley region. Chatuge Dam, which straddles both Tennessee and Northeast Georgia, is the highest of the three dams, impounding the 7,000 acre Lake Chatuge.
Originally, the dam was built to mitigate flooding in towns down from the lake. However, like many other TVA developments, the dam was outfitted with a small hydropower output in the 1950s. The hydropower project was actually authorized in the early 1940s in order to meet emergency electricity demand in the wake of World War II. The town of Hiawassee is located just south of the dam, and the Georgia border of the dam includes the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The dam itself was constructed in a “ski jump” spillway style out of earth and rock. The spillway boasts 50 bays with a total discharge of 11,500 cubic feet per second, with a flood storage of over 132 miles of shoreline. The “ski jump” spillway is 44 meters high and 2,850 feet wide. The entire style was kept relatively simple given the short timeline imposed by wartime needs.
Contributors: Maya Bradford, Angela Jiang, Katya Miranda