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Georgia Natural Wonder #179 - Sawnee Mountain - Forsyth County (Part 2)
February 16, 2021 07:32AM

Georgia Natural Wonder #179 - Sawnee Mountain - Forsyth County (Part 2)

Sawnee Mountain

Sawnee Mountain is a low mountain between the Piedmont and Appalachian foothills of the U.S. state of Georgia, north of Atlanta. The name Sawnee Mountain actually refers to the entire ridge of approximately five miles in length. At its summit, the elevation is 1,946 feet above mean sea level, and is roughly 750 feet above the surrounding terrain. The Sawnee Mountain range runs southwest to northeast, and consists of five knolls and three gaps (Chamblee, Sawnee, and Bettes). Located only a few miles north of Cumming, Georgia, the mountain is easily the highest point in Forsyth county.

One of the highest peaks of metro Atlanta, it nudges out its prominently known neighbors Stone Mountain GNW#7 and Kennesaw Mountain GNW #131 by a hundred or so feet each. However, Sawnee is in the far northern exurbs, putting it in third place behind Bear Mountain and Pine Log Mountain GNW #160 to the west.

You can see Sawnee Mountain from my Condo in downtown Atlanta on a super clear day.

It is to the right of Buckhead in these Zoomed in images. I know I know you have to use your imagination and squint.

TRD Addendum, super clear this morning, you can see a lot of North Georgia mountains up past Cumming.

Now I cheated years ago and drove to top of Sawnee Mountain.

Looking up hill.

View across to extended ridge.

Just a lazy view from car, didn't even know about Indian Seats Trail.

View back South to Cumming.

Houses with views west.

As the county grew, Sawnee Mountain remained virtually untouched by development until AT&T built a long line microwave transmission tower in the 1950s. Later, the Barker family built a home on the saddle of the west summit, and several more homes were eventually built.

This was the former Barker house on southern prominence of mountain. You could see this real clear coming State Route 20 East from Canton. But it was demolished and Forsyth County is building a park there now. The proposed overlook site is located at the former Barker House property, which was acquired by the County along with 12.8 acres in 2003.

No park on this south side of mountain. Good view only where power lines cut down trees.

TRD Addendum

Found these images of the Barker House.

Drone view of Barker House Prominence.

I wonder if they tore this tower down?

There was this house for 3.5 million listed.

3.5 Million.

This Sawnee Mountain home is listed for 9.5 million.

Sawnee Mountain Preserve

The Sawnee Mountain Preserve protects 963 acres of the mountain and is managed by the Natural Resource Management Division of Forsyth County Parks and Recreation.

The Visitor Center features interactive exhibits about the natural and cultural histories of Sawnee Mountain, and a resource library and lounge. Environmental education programs are offered for school, scout and other groups, and a summer camp program is operated by the County.


It is believed that Native Americans may have used a natural clearing atop the mountain called the Indian Seats for ceremonial purposes. As white settlers migrated to the area, now known as Cumming, a local Cherokee named Sawnee helped them adjust to the native land. As a well skilled carpenter and farmer he was known throughout the land, and the range was named in his honor.

Sawnee Mountain is named for Chief Sawnee (also spelled Sauney), a Cherokee Indian who lived southwest of present-day Cumming. While tales abound of Sawnee being too old to be removed on the Trail of Tears, he received $618.50 in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1839 in payment for “removal damages”, probably his property (Sawnee Mountain and a 16-acre parcel of land southwest of present-day Cumming, Georgia).

When white settlers entered the area in the early 1800’s, a minor chief of the Cherokee Nation welcomed them. A skilled carpenter and farmer, Sawnee helped them build their homes in the area around present-day Cumming. Settlers agreed that Sawnee was one of the kindest and most giving people they had ever known. When he died, the grateful local citizens named the mountain in his memory.

It is arguably the southernmost summit in the Blue Ridge range, making it the first link in the Appalachian chain, which reaches all the way to Maine. On the eastern ridge, runoff from boulders balanced on a rock outcropping slowly carved three uniform depressions in the stone. Those boulders eventually weathered, split and toppled down the north face, exposing what we now call the Indian Seats. The seats and the adjacent natural clearing may have served some ceremonial purpose for Native American inhabitants (Woodlands culture, later replaced by Mississippian, Muscogean, Creek and Cherokee) dating as far back as c. 500 B.C.E.

Even before the major strike at Auraria in 1829, gold had been discovered all over them thar hills and at several sites in present day Forsyth County. As late as the early 1900s, white settlers sunk pits and dug caves all over Sawnee Mountain looking for the yellow metal. The only promising sites were along the south face of the eastern ridge, but mining efforts were eventually abandoned because of the enormous cost of extracting the gold.

There are also mines in the ridges of Sawnee which is downstream the Chattahoochee from the major strike. Current uses of the mountain are as a nature preserve park and a Radio station, WWEV-FM 91.5, which transmits from a radio tower at the top of the mountain.

Looking across ridge North to south.

Originally, the station staff actually drove recorded programming to the top where it played from broadcast automation equipment, but it now uses a live studio/transmitter link. The Sawnee Mountain Visitor Center is located at 4075 Spot Road and is one of the trail heads.

Sawnee Mountain has survived fires, tornadoes, timber clearing, development and the search for gold. In the midst of whirlwind growth, Sawnee stands unchanged -- preserved for county residents and visitors to enjoy for generations to come.

Atlanta Trails

It’s easily one of the best views in North Georgia. The Indian Seats Trail hikes over and around the sheer face of Sawnee Mountain, exploring breathtaking views of the distant rolling ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And sunsets from the mountain’s towering overlook are simply spectacular.

The trail is part of the 5+ mile network of hiking, walking and running trails at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, a 900-acre stretch of beautiful coniferous and deciduous forest just 40 miles north of Atlanta.

The mountain’s history spans from a sacred site for the local Native American Cherokee and Creek tribes to a mining site in the 1800s search for gold in Georgia. Today, the mountain preserve offers a number of fantastic hikes and running trails – and this view-packed loop is one of the park’s most popular, named for the granite, carved seat-like depressions on the mountain’s summit.

Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at the park’s visitor center on Spot Road (view maps and driving directions). The hike reaches the Indian Seats Loop, turning left at the intersection to follow the loop trail counterclockwise, immediately gaining elevation and winding through several wide switchbacks. The trail rolls elevation as it swings south of the mountain’s summit, hiking past a now-gated gold mine entrance, carved deeply in the exposed rock outcrop, at just over 1 mile.

The hike follows a well-marked side trail to the mountain’s summit, reaching the overlook at 1.9 miles.

Carved in the lofty, sheer face of the mountaintop are several natural depressions in the rock, were used by local tribes as seats for lookouts and meditation centuries ago.

The overlook offers gorgeous, expansive views of the valley stretching below.

Pine Log Mountain to west.

The southernmost range of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains rise to the north on the distant horizon.

Windswept conifers line the rocky ridge, with excellent views extending along its east-to-west length.

The hike departs the Sawnee Mountain summit overlook, rejoining the Indian Seats Trail to continue the counterclockwise loop, meandering as it winds down the mountain’s southern expanse. The hike reaches the intersection of the Yucca Trail at 2.4 miles, turning left.

Looping back to the trail head

The trail passes the southern visitor center and parking area and a second mine entrance at 2.9 miles before turning northward, ascending a small knob at 3.4 miles before descending towards the Spot Road trail head.

The hike reaches the trail head and visitors center at 4 miles, completing the adventure.


Free. Dogs are (unfortunately) not allowed in the Sawnee Mountain Preserve, so please leave your four-legged hiking buddies at home.

GPS Coordinates

34.254750, -84.138933 // N34 15.285 W84 08.336

Forsyth County (Part 2)

We finished the enormous racial History tangent of Forsyth County with our last post. We wrap up Forsyth County today, before we float the Hooch downstream.

21st century

Forsyth County continued to be developed for subdivisions, industry and related businesses. By 2008 it had been ranked for several years among the top ten fastest-growing counties of the United States. Many new subdivisions have been constructed, several around top-quality golf courses. The county's proximity to Atlanta and the Blue Ridge mountains, and bordering 37,000-acre Lake Sidney Lanier, has attracted many new residents. More than 60% of the current population either lived elsewhere in 1987 or had not yet been born.

In the 2000s and 2010s, Forsyth County experienced unprecedented growth partly due to white flight from north Fulton County as a result of the rapid increase of Asians settling in that area which borders the southern part of Forsyth County. For example, the highly rated Northview High School based in north Fulton County, went from 60% white and 30% Asian in 2007 to 50% Asian and 30% white in 2017. Many white parents claimed north Fulton County public schools with a relatively high percentage of Asian students became overwhelmingly academically competitive which negatively impacted their children's mental health and social life. confused smiley (I am just pasting and copying here)

The growth has put a strain on water supplies, especially during area droughts in the 21st century. Suburban growth has greatly increased water consumption in the area to maintain lawns and gardens, and supply new households. The region had severe droughts in 2007-2008 that threatened downriver water supplies in Alabama and Florida, in addition to Atlanta, in 2013 and in 2016. Bans on outdoor use of water were put in place, and the area has encouraged conversion of toilets and appliances to those that use less water. A severe drought in southern Forsyth County was declared by the end of June 2016. Several county organizations work to plan growth that can sustain the high quality of life in the area.

Since the 1990s, Forsyth County has become more racially and culturally diverse. There are an increasing number of Asian, Hispanic, and African-American families relocating to Forsyth County mainly due to the abundance of resource-rich public schools in the county.


Among the largest employers in the county are Northside Hospital, Koch Foods, Tyson Foods, Siemens, Scientific Games Corporation, Arris International, Baran Telecom, America BOA, Automation Direct, and L-3 Communications Display Systems.

Northside Hospital Forsyth

An indicator that part of the county had reached the status of a mainstream suburban/exurban area and was starting to create new, positive history beyond its racist past, a mixed-use development Halcyon with residential, office, dining and entertainment facilities, opened in the southern part of the county near Alpharetta in summer 2019.

Halcyon Proposed.

Halcyon now? Probably finished.


One of the steam engines in the July 4th, 2002 Parade in downtown Cumming

Lake Lanier, a 37,000-acre lake created and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in association with Buford Dam, is enjoyed by many residents and non-residents alike. Fishing, boating, tubing, wake boarding, and water skiing are common activities on the lake.

Bare Footing too.

Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department maintains 25 parks and facilities in the county. Most notable are Sawnee Mountain Preserve, Central Park, Fowler Park, Poole's Mill Covered Bridge and the Big Creek Greenway. In 2005 Sawnee Mountain Preserve opened its gates to visitors. Once riddled with pits and caves dug by settlers searching for gold, the park now provides hiking trails, picnic areas, and an outdoor
amphitheater. Visitors can also enjoy rock climbing and rappelling.

In 2004 the Cumming Playhouse opened in the restored Cumming Public School building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The playhouse offers a variety of stage productions and concerts throughout the year. Lanierland Music Park, the county's popular country music venue, closed in 2006.

The Cumming Fairgrounds host many events throughout the year including a rodeo, The Cumming Country Fair, and a farmers' market. There is also the annual 4 July Steam Engine Parade.



There is only one city in Forsyth County, and that is Cumming, the County Seat.

City Hall in shadow of Sawnee Mountain.

The area now called Cumming is located west of the historic location of Vann's Ferry between Forsyth County and Hall County.

Vann's Ferry on map.

Early history

The area, now called Cumming, was first inhabited by Cherokee tribes. They came in 1755. The Cherokee and Creek people developed disputes over hunting land. After two years of fighting, the Cherokee won the land in the Battle of Taliwa.

We talked about this in GNW #163

The Creek people were forced to move south of the Chattahoochee River.

1834 map of counties created from Cherokee land. Cumming is shown in the middle of Forsyth County.

The Cherokee coexisted with white settlers until the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1828. Settlers that moved to the area to mine for gold pushed for the removal of the Cherokee. In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota was signed. The treaty stated that the Cherokee Nation must move to the Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi River. This resulted in the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee territory was then formed into Cherokee County in 1831. In 1832, the county was split into several counties including Forsyth County.

1970's Forsyth County Courthouse.

In 1833, the town of Cumming was formed from two 40-acre land lots that had been issued as part of a Georgia State Land Lottery in 1832. The two lots designated as Land Lot 1269 and Land Lot 1270 were purchased by a couple of Forsyth County Inferior Court justices who realized that it was necessary to have a seat of government to conduct county business. The boundaries of the two lots ended at what is now Tolbert Street on the west side, Eastern Circle on the east side, Resthaven Street on the south side, and School Street on the north side. In 1834 the post office was established and began delivering mail. The justices of the Inferior Court divided the town land into smaller lots and began selling them to people over the next several years, reserving one lot for the county courthouse. During that same year, the Georgia State Legislature incorporated the town of Cumming into the City of Cumming and made it the official government seat of Forsyth County. A second charter was issued in 1845, decreeing that Cumming's government would follow the mayor–council model of government.

Latest Forsyth County Courthouse.

The community is commonly thought to be named after Colonel William Cumming. An alternate theory proposed by a local historian posits the name honors Rev. Frederick Cumming, a professor of Jacob Scudder, a resident of the area since 1815 who owned land in present-day downtown. Yet another theory is that the town is named after Alexander Cuming, the son of a Scottish baronet.

The historical marker goes with the first version.

William Clay Cumming (July 27, 1788 – February 18, 1863) was an American planter and soldier from Augusta, Georgia. William Cumming was born in Augusta to Thomas and Ann (Clay) Cumming. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut. When he returned to Augusta, he bought land and became a planter.

Military service

Cumming joined the militia, becoming captain of an independent company called the Augusta Blues. When the unit was mustered into the regular army for service in the War of 1812 he was commissioned as a major in the 8th Infantry. In February 1814 he was promoted to colonel and named as adjutant general for the Northern Army. Colonel Cumming fought on the St. Lawrence frontier and in the Niagara campaign. He was cited for gallantry and leadership. He was lightly wounded in November 1813 at the Battle of Crysler's Farm.

Battle of Crysler's Farm

He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Lundy's Lane in July 1814.

An extended period of hospitalization ended his participation in the war, and he resigned his commission in March 1815.

Planter and politician

When he returned home he resumed his career as a planter. While active and outspoken in political arguments Cumming declined several offices, including an election by the state legislature to the United States Senate. In 1822 his strong support of state nullification, and his habit of strong criticism, led to an ongoing dispute with South Carolina Congressman George McDuffie, who favored deference to the federal government. He met McDuffie in a duel and wounded him. The bullet lodged in McDuffie's back and was never removed; the wound caused him to limp for the rest of his life. Oh Man, we gotta do a Wonder in McDuffie County to give his side of story as that Georgia County was named for him.

Later life

In 1847, President Polk offered Cumming the rank of Major General to participate in the Mexican–American War, but his age and declining health caused him to turn down the offer. Cumming died in Augusta in 1863. The town of Cumming, Georgia is named in his honor.

Modern history of Cumming

During the 1830s and 1840s, Cumming benefited from the gold mining industry as many businesses were created to meet the needs of the miners. However, the California Gold Rush in 1849 put the city into an economic depression. Newly built railroads bypassed the city and took traffic from the Federal Road that ran near Cumming. The city was spared during the Civil War because William T. Sherman did not pass through the city during his March to the Sea. In 1900, the county courthouse was destroyed in a fire; it was rebuilt in 1905.

The 1905 Courthouse burned again in 1973.

City growth

Today, the city is experiencing new growth and bears little resemblance to the small rural town it was mere decades ago. The completion of Georgia 400 has helped turn Cumming into a commuter town for metropolitan Atlanta. The city holds the Cumming Country Fair & Festival every October. The Sawnee Mountain Preserve provides views of the city from the top of Sawnee Mountain. In 1956, Buford Dam, along the Chattahoochee River, started operating. The reservoir that it created is called Lake Lanier. The lake, a popular spot for boaters, has generated income from tourists for Cumming as well as provides a source of drinking water.

However, because of rapid growth of the Atlanta area, drought, and mishandling of a stream gauge, Lake Lanier has seen record-low water levels. Moreover, the lake is involved in a longstanding lawsuit between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Because of a recent ruling, the city may not be able to withdraw its water. However, the city is looking into different sources of water such as wells and various creeks.

Unincorporated communities

With only one officially incorporated city, the majority of Forsyth County citizens live in areas with zip codes assigned to cities in surrounding counties. In addition, there are several unincorporated communities throughout the county.

Big Creek

Big Creek is a 26.5-mile-long stream in Forsyth and Fulton counties in Georgia. The creek mouth into the Chattahoochee River is located at the southern border of Roswell where State Route 9 crosses the river. Its source is located just north of the intersection of Georgia State Route 9 and Georgia State Route 20, in Forsyth County, about 1 mile directly south of downtown Cumming.

Big Creek Parkway.

Can be tricky at times.

Coal Mountain

Coal Mountain is an unincorporated community in Forsyth County. The Coal Mountain area lies at the intersection of GA-369 and SR-9. It was once home to a post office that served the small community. North Forsyth High School, North Forsyth Middle School, Coal Mountain Elementary School, Coal Mountain Park, Coal Mountain Baptist Church, Mountain Lake Church, Regions Bank Coal Mountain are all located in Coal Mountain. It lies at an elevation of 1220 feet.


A post office was in operation at Coal Mountain from 1834 until 1907. The community's name most likely came from a local Cole (or Coal) family. (This part of Georgia has no coal deposits.)

Coal Mountain Dog Park. Oh come on, I had to sneak this one in somewhere.


Chestatee is an unincorporated community in northeastern Forsyth County, due west of the confluence of the Chestatee River into the Chattahoochee River. Originally a Cherokee settlement, it was called Atsunsta Ti Yi. The word "Chestatee" is a Cherokee word meaning roughly "pine torch place" or "place of lights", because they would use bonfires along the riverbanks to light their torches. They would then use these torches for hunting deer and other wild game in the forest. A post office called Chestatee was established in 1880, and remained in operation until being discontinued in 1904.

The Vann Ferry, owned by Cherokee Indian Chief Vann, is just east of Chestatee, on the road to Gainesville.

New bridge where Vann's Ferry was.

Daves Creek

Daves Creek is an unincorporated community in Forsyth County, but no Wikipedia information on Web.


Drew is an unincorporated community in Forsyth County. A post office called Drew was established in 1889, and remained in operation until 1904. Drew E. Bennett, an early postmaster, gave the community his first name.


The name may be a transfer from Ducktown, Tennessee. A post office called Ducktown was established in 1899, and remained in operation until 1903. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated the place in 1912 as the "Town of Ducktown". The town's municipal charter was dissolved in 1995.


An unincorporated community in Forsyth County, but no information on Web.


An unincorporated community in Forsyth County, but no information on Web.


Matt is an unincorporated community in Forsyth County. It is located on Georgia State Route 369, which is named Matt Highway where it passes through the community.


A post office was in operation at Matt from 1896 until 1911. The identity of the town's namesake is unclear; it possibly was named after Matt J. Williams, a county judge.


An unincorporated community in Forsyth County, but no information on Web.

Pirkle Woods

An unincorporated community in Forsyth County, but no information on Web.

Silver City

An unincorporated community in Forsyth County.

Silver City Fire Dept and A C Smith Poultry Company


A post office called Silver City was established in 1886, and remained in operation until 1907. The community's name most likely is a transfer from a city in the Western United States.

Abba Thrift Store and Silver City Furniture Service Center

OK I see this post is running a little long and I found another Forsyth County spot I want to feature as a separate Natural Wonder. So I am cutting this off for one more Forsyth County tangent before we get back to floating down the Chattahoochee River.

Today's GNW Gals with Saws for our Sawnee theme.

Edited 17 time(s). Last edit at 03/02/2021 09:18AM by Top Row Dawg.

Georgia Natural Wonder #179 - Sawnee Mountain - Forsyth County (Part 2)

Top Row Dawg281February 16, 2021 07:32AM

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