The Land Of Laughing Water

The trail head to Minnehaha Falls. Yes, someone misspelled the name.
In reading up on some material before writing this I came across the Native American phrase "laughing water" from the Dakota tribe. Laughing water translates to waterfall and Minnehaha is the Dakota word for waterfall. I had never thought of waterfalls as laughing water but the imagery it creates is playful and beautiful. I can hear the water laughing as it tumbles over a cliff and down the rocks and I hope I can remember this phrase the next time I see a waterfall.

From a spring, water comes out of a mountain at around 2,800 feet above sea level along the Rabun and Habersham County line and moves north forming Falls Branch. Falls Branch comes off the mountain descending to 1,800 feet in elevation before spilling into Lake Rabun, which was built in 1915 by damming the Tallulah River. Falls Branch takes just over a mile and a half to come down off the mountain and one hundred feet of that descent is laughing water. That stretch of laughing water is called Minnehaha Falls in North Georgia.

Minnehaha Falls is located in the far northeastern corner of the state about two hours from Atlanta and near Tallulah Gorge. It is one of several waterfalls located in this portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest that cover the far northern reaches of Georgia. The waterfall is named after the famous fictional character Minnehaha in Longfellow's The Song Of Hiawatha.

It was the peak of the fall foliage in late October of 2016 when I visited Minnehaha. The area was experiencing a severe drought and streams were running abnormally low even for what is normally the dry season in Georgia. This meant that the waterfalls weren't quite as beautiful as they should have been since the water flow was limited.

The trail to the waterfall is rather short by my hiking standards at only fourth tenths of a mile from the parking area on Bear Gap Road. The trail follows along the side of Falls Branch and has a gradual incline that is very easy to walk. That short walk into the woods among the mountain laurel is much cooler from the cold mountain water than what you will experience at the trail head.

Photo by me, October 2016.

Even with the lower than normal water flow Minnehaha is a beautiful sight. It might be my favorite so far that I have visited in Georgia. I would like to return one day in wetter conditions to see the water raging over the rocks. The fallen leaves scattered on the rocks and the late afternoon sun striking the trees higher up on the mountainside made for a peaceful scene that day.

Minnehaha Falls is a little off the beaten tourist path and for that reason it isn't as well known as the other falls in North Georgia. This lack of popularity makes it a nice getaway from the crowds that often flood the Georgia mountains during the peak of the fall foliage. In my visit I encountered only six other people and I managed to get some alone time to reflect on the beauty of nature.

Lake Rabun. Photo by me, October 2016.

The parking area on Bear Gap Road. Photo by me, October 2016.


Some of the pretty fall color. Fall is a great time to visit. Photo by me, October 2016.

On the drive out to the waterfall you will see beautiful scenery such as Lake Rabun. The roads are twisty and narrow and speed limits are very slow on these roads. Bear Gap Road where Minnehaha is located is a gravel road with blind curves but it is well maintained so even small cars will have no problems on it.