Undammed for nearly two hundred miles until Lake Blackshear near Cordele, the Flint River is one of central and south Georgia's most beautiful large rivers, flowing through several swamps from its headwaters in metro Atlanta. One of the highlights of the river is Sprewell Bluff, a 150-foot bluff towering above the Flint near Thomaston. Other hills and bluffs form a surprisingly narrow and deep gorge on the Flint River in the next few miles upstream. In the 1960s, the splendor of the Flint River in the vicinity of Sprewell Bluff and Thomaston was threatened by the Army Corps of Engineers' proposal of building a dam at Sprewell Bluff, but thankfully, the dam construction proposal was vetoed in 1974 by President Jimmy Carter. The area around Sprewell Bluff became a Georgia State Park in the early 1990s, and today, it is managed by Upson County. Today, a well-developed trail system, gorgeous roadside overlook, campground, and trading post are to be found in Sprewell Bluff Park. This hike occurred on Friday, April 14th, 2017. My plan was to hike the entire Upper Flint River Trail out and back from Sprewell Bluff Road, although I had to shorten my hike due to a late start.
R/T Length of Trail: 1.7 Miles
Duration of Hike: 1:05
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 270 Feet
Pros: Well-groomed trail that is suitable for families
Points of Interest: Sprewell Bluff and other bluffs along the Flint River; Flint River Double Overlook; Flint River Island
Trail Blaze Colors: Upper Flint River Trail - Blue
Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round
Fees: The entry fee for Sprewell Bluff Park is $5 per car.
Beginning Point: Flint River Trailhead
Directions from Thomaston, GA: From the intersection of GA 74 (Main Street) and US 19 (Church Street) in downtown Thomaston, follow GA 74 West for 5.7 miles, and then, turn left onto (South) Old Alabama Road. Continue on Old Alabama Road for 6.6 miles to its terminus at the Flint River Trailhead in Sprewell Bluff Park. You will enter the park about 4.6 miles from GA 74. At the park entrance, there is a trading post to the left and an incredibly beautiful overlook of the Flint River Gorge to the right.
Click here to download a track of this hike.
Sprewell Bluff Park is one of central Georgia's best hiking destinations, due to the beauty of the Flint River gorge. Besides the hike, the roadside overlook at the park entrance is noteworthy, as it provides one of the best views that I have seen south of Atlanta. The panorama of the Flint River snaking through the hills is hardly different from a mountain gorge view. A broad observation deck lets visitors enjoy this easy-to-access view.
The hike itself begins at the Flint River trailhead at the end of Sprewell Bluff Road. Directly across the river from the parking area, Sprewell Bluff is quite a sight as it towers dramatically above the river. Two trails leave the large trailhead parking area: the Longleaf Pine Trail heads east/northeast and downstream, and the Upper Flint River Trail heads west and upstream. A satisfactory day hike can be made out of the full length of both trails. For the shorter hike that is described here, pick up the the Upper Flint River Trail at the trailhead kiosk near the far end of the parking area. The wide trail initially stays close to the river, passing through the picnic area. When the picnic area ends at 0.1 miles, there is a sign that warns about river hazards. The distinct trail bears right, gently ascending away from the river to bypass a line of sheer bluffs. Near the top, an alternate trail from the parking area ties in from the right. This trail can be utilized on the way back for a slight variation in the hiking route. Meanwhile, bear left and at 0.2 miles reach a pair of observation areas overlooking the Flint River from the top of the bluffs.
The first observation area is complete with a deck that provides a commanding view of the wide Flint River upstream, along with a small island in the middle. Directly below the deck is a broad set of shoals that stretches across the entire river. The second observation area (that is only a few feet farther) is equipped with just a fence, but this upstream view is more tree-framed and possibly more photogenic (see header photo). Beyond the overlooks, the trail continues ascending through open woods. At 0.25 miles, there is an unsigned junction with a blue-blazed access trail that leaves to the right, leading to a secondary ridgetop trailhead on Sprewell Bluff Road. Make sure to continue straight on the Upper Flint River Trail, which was not blazed for some reason when I did this hike. There are several more bluff-top river views through the sparse trees. Shortly afterwards, the trail descends moderately back down to the river, reaching it at 0.45 miles. A scramble path leads left to the base of the bluff line, but for now, bear right to continue on the trail past another area of shoals and into lush bottomland.
At 0.7 miles, there is a disorienting intersection that is marked by a kiosk, which on this day had no information on it. The trail that bears right at the kiosk is the continuation of the Upper Flint River Trail, while the trail that bears left is a spur trail to a large island and beach-like area on the Flint River. Originally, my plan had been to hike to the entire Upper Flint River Trail, but due to time constraints, I had to limit myself with turning around at the island. Thus, if you do not wish to extend the hike, then take the spur trail left, reaching its end near the river at 0.85 miles. Next to the Flint River is a broad sandy area in the picturesque floodplain. From the end of the trail, it is possible to rock hop or wade in low water levels across the small right channel of the Flint River and walk down a rocky "beach" to the edge of the river's placid waters. In high water levels, the rocky beach is likely going to be submerged. This is a beautiful and fairly remote location. Remoteness is difficult to find on central Georgia's hiking trails, which is one of the reasons why I consider this short section of the Flint River particularly special.
From the island, retrace your steps all the way back to the point where the trail reaches the river near a line of bluffs. This time, instead of climbing away from the river right away, continue straight on a narrow path that leads to the base of the impressive bluffs. Several twisting paths provide routes to the top amidst the bluffs, but please do not use any of the paths to prevent erosion. Returning to the trail, continue following it back toward the trailhead, passing the double observation deck. At the intersection near the end, you can bear left on the hillside trail that stays above the picnic area. Passing a pair of carsonite trail markers, you will reach the trailhead and conclude the hike at 1.8 miles.
0.0 - Sprewell Bluff Trailhead
0.2 - Flint River Observation Areas
0.45 - Bluffs
0.85 - Sandy beach and island on Flint River
Hike the full Upper Flint River Trail - 4.6 Miles
Hike both the full Upper Flint River Trail and the Longleaf Pine Trail - 6.2 Miles
Around 30 minutes from Sprewell Bluff is Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Georgia's largest state park. There is an abundance of hiking trails in the park, including the Wolfden Loop that passes numerous small waterfalls and the Dowdell Knob Loop that visits an overlook at the park's highest point.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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