Before Helen: Logging in Northeast Georgia

Helen was not always the charming Bavarian attraction it is today. In fact, a quick search will reveal that Helen used to be a logging town on the decline. With that in mind, exploring logging in the north Georgia mountains may be of interest.

As Donald Edward Davis explains in his 2000 book Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians, the timber industry in this region started to grow after the Civil War, a period of increased railroad usage and construction. Before this, the lush forests of the Southeast had been considered inaccessible, and much more trouble than the land in the North and Midwest (Davis 2000). While the timber industry in the North waned, it took off in the South, causing no small amount of environmental troubles (Davis 2000). By 1895, southern Appalachia was rife with fires, floods, and massive amounts of erosion (Davis 2000).

As Davis explains, the widespread forest fires and floods did not elude the watchful eyes of the region’s National Forest Reservation Commission members (2000). Once they identified industrial logging as the source of the problem, they quickly moved to advocate for more structured logging activities as well as setting aside tracts of forest that would be spared from logging (Davis 2000).

These early conservation efforts would lead to today’s National Parks and Forests. With logging off the table, Helen and other towns like it fell into decline. In the present day, these towns are mostly invested in tourism, as the Chattahoochee National Forest is the beautiful, vibrant forest the National Forest Reservation Commission always dreamed it and other parts of Southern Appalachia would be.


Reference: Davis, D. E. (2000). Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians. Retrieved from