Chattahoochee National Forest: Tabor Falls (Waterfall on Unnamed Tributary of Middle Fork Broad River), Cornelia, Georgia
The Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area covers the southeastern extremity of Chattahoochee National Forest. This low-elevation sector of the forest is not known for pleasant hiking trails and spectacular waterfalls/overlooks to the extent that other parts of the forest are. But despite its low elevation, the Lake Russell area is home to a number of waterfalls, most of which have slipped under the radar of hikers and waterfall enthusiasts for years. One of the most spectacular waterfalls is a 50-foot sheer drop - historically referenced to as Tabor Falls - that is located well up an unnamed tributary of the Middle Fork Broad River. Even though a distinct path leads almost to the base of Tabor Falls, the waterfall is largely unknown to the outdoors community, and you're unlikely to see other people in this remote corner of Lake Russell WMA - although there may be exceptions during hunting season. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 12th, 2017. My plan was to find the easiest route from Sellers Road to a waterfall that I discovered on terrain and satellite imagery on an unnamed tributary of the Middle Fork Broad River, learning after my hike that the waterfall's historical name is Tabor Falls. I was surprised to find an unofficial trail in great condition leading almost to the base of the waterfall with only a short off-trail scramble at the end.
R/T Length of Trail: 2.0 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:00 (includes lengthy stop at Tabor Falls)
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 342 Feet
Pros: Good trail almost to the end
Cons: Tabor Falls is on a low-volume stream; the final scramble to the base of the falls lacks a distinct path
Points of Interest: Tabor Falls - 8 stars (with adequate water flow)
Trail Blaze Colors: None, not an official trail
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter
Beginning Point :Sellers Road Gate
Directions from Cornelia, GA: From the intersection of Main Street and Wyly Street near downtown Cornelia, follow Wyly Street/Highway 13 East (which turns into Dicks Hill Parkway) for 4.9 miles. Then, turn right onto Sellers Road. In 0.4 miles, Sellers Road crosses a bridge across railroad tracks. 0.1 miles farther, Sellers Road turns unpaved. Continue straight on the dirt road - which should be suitable for most passenger vehicles - for 0.2 miles to a small turnaround and gate. This is the parking area where the hike begins. Note that the gate may be open during hunting season, allowing one to drive right to the beginning of the trail about 0.25 miles farther, although at the time of my hike, there were some mud holes along the gated stretch.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
Everyone knows about Toccoa Falls, one of Georgia's tallest and most spectacular waterfalls, near Toccoa and not far from Lake Russell WMA. In May 2016, I hiked a loop trail in Lake Russell WMA that visited a small waterfall known as Nancytown Falls. Since then, I've always wondered if the area has other waterfalls besides these two that people are mostly unaware of, and a recent look at the area via Google Earth's satellite imagery, as well as terrain and topographic maps, revealed the possibility of nearly a dozen other waterfalls of varying size. One of the most promising locations was a particularly tall drop on a small tributary of the Middle Fork Broad River. With there not being any documentation on the web of a waterfall at that location, and with it being fairly close to a road, my curiosity was piqued and I decided to check it out. I was surprised to find an unofficial but clearly well-used trail leading almost to the base of the falls - which in turned exceeded my expectations in term of beauty. When I got home, I did extensive research about the falls and even contacted local rangers. It appears that the waterfall has the historic name "Tabor Falls". A Tabor Falls is referenced as "one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the WMA" in the book "Life Along the Middle Broad River". Per the book reference, Tabor Falls is located northwest of the Toccoa Pumping Station (the site of which is near the confluence of the unnamed tributary and the river) and west along Guard Camp Road (today, it is Sellers Road but old topo maps show the former name) near the old George Sellars homesite (I have not been able to identify the exact location of the site, unfortunately, thus lending a slight degree of uncertainty to the reference).
Begin the hike to Tabor Falls by walking around the gate and continuing down the portion of Sellers Road that is normally closed to vehicles, except during hunting season. The walk is nearly flat, but there are several mud holes that present minor obstacles. At about 0.25 miles, the road makes a large curve to the left as it heads up a small hill. This is the point where you need to leave the road. Look closely for a path striking off diagonally to the right (south-southeast) into a patch of pines. The first few feet of it aren't very distinct, but if you keep walking, you will soon find yourself on a path as broad and clear as any official trail. About 250 feet from the road, the trail bears right and passes through a shallow gap with some antique automobile remains. The trail then proceeds to descend gently along the west side of a ridge into the valley. The forest mostly consists of pines and appears to be part of a logging area. The trail actually joins an old roadbed and follows it into a deeper gap at 0.55 miles. This is where there you have to make an obscure right turn as the trail leaves the old road, which continues straight up the hill. The trail quickly leaves the pine forest and at 0.65 miles comes alongside a small stream - a tributary of the creek with Tabor Falls. Pay attention here: in about 50 feet, there is a junction. The trail that you have been following continues straight upstream, while another trail turns very sharply left. This new trail is the one you must take to reach Tabor Falls. The trail crosses the small stream - an easy rock hop at normal water levels - and then passes through an area with several sawed logs and one blowdown. After this, there is another easy crossing of the creek before the trail arrives at the main stream.
At 0.85 miles, the main trail curves to the right and approaches a crossing of the main stream (the one with Tabor Falls). However, this trail actually heads in a completely different direction toward Georgia Mountain Orchard Road. To reach Tabor Falls, turn left just before the creek crossing. You may or may not see a faint path here, but regardless, simply hike along the same side of the creek downstream through open woods and you will shortly merge with a much more distinct trail that approaches the top of Tabor Falls at 0.95 miles. Stay away from the dangerous area at the top of the cliff and follow the trail as it bends around the cliff. In 250 feet, you will be past the cliff. Around this spot, watch out for an area to the right that seems to show signs of foot traffic leaving the trail. Since the main trail does not provide access to the base of Tabor Falls and simply continues downstream instead, you must turn right - off the trail - and make a short but steep scramble to the base of the falls, which is visible through the trees and can be heard easily. The scramble is generally open, but there are a few patches of poison ivy and some briars, so you must pay attention. At one point not far from the base, it will be best to bear right and finish the descent close to the base of the cliff to avoid a small rock outcrop. At the base of Tabor Falls at 1.0 miles, you will have to cross the creek for the best view of the falls, and while this was possible to do with dry feet today, it could be a shallow wade in wetter conditions.
The huge cliff that forms Tabor Falls is part of what makes this such a gorgeous waterfall. The 50-foot cliff runs away from the creek for a bit on both sides as well. The stream splits into two separate channels of flow as it begins its fall down the cliff. The two channels are of equal volume and form small free-falling sections along the way down. There is a small shallow pool at the bottom. During drought, it is not worth going to Tabor Falls as it will not be nearly as spectacular due to the stream's small size, but in wet or even regular conditions, Tabor Falls is a beauty. One of the best angles for photographing the waterfall is on the north side of the stream just below a huge boulder that adds beauty to the setting. From Tabor Falls, simply retrace your steps back to the gate and parking area, concluding the hike at 2.0 miles. By the way, if you have any information about where the trails in this mysterious unofficial trail system around Tabor Falls lead - and if there are any other sights worth seeing - please let me know!
0.0 - Sellers Road Gate
0.25 - Begin Tabor Falls Trail
0.55 - Gap, Turn Right
0.65 - Junction, Turn Acutely Left (cross the creek)
0.85 - Left Turn (off the main trail) above Tabor Falls
0.95 - Top of Tabor Falls
1.0 - Tabor Falls
2.0 - Sellers Road Gate
There are several hiking possibilities in the area. You can try hiking some of the trails around Lake Russell, Nancytown Lake, and Chenocetah Mountain. Another possibility is hiking to Currahee Mountain or the nearby Frady Branch Trails.
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