HIking Canyon Erosion

Hiking Providence Canyon

This place is a mixed experience for a nature lover. They call it Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon. It is a surprise in the southeastern pines that seems like something in the western US. At the same moment, it’s a natural wonder and an environmental nightmare.

Surface runoff and groundwater erosion washes away this topsoil and has deepened the canyon since the 1830s. It started when settlers cut down too many of the trees for farming. There was nothing left to hold the soil together. Think about channels cut in the dirt where a sprinkler head breaks or the gutter separates and water runs down. In fact, local legend says Providence Canyon began with water falling from the barn roof.

Now it’s a state park. A beautiful place for a few miles of hiking. And Rhododendron prunifolium grows here. Plumleaf azalea. The rarest azalea in the Eastern US, growing only in a few counties near the Chattahoochee River. It blooms in this microclimate when all other azalea trees drop their leaves.

Someone could say, see? It doesn’t matter what you do to the environment. It works out. But that’s irresponsible. It does mean that in the space of human failures, life can persist.

This is not what we want, need, or what’s right. But it’s what is. It’s an opportunity. Not to accept what’s unacceptable. But to learn. To explore. To seize what space we have for growth. Nature rolls on. Life survives. Maybe not the life, land, or country that’s familiar. But life. It goes on.

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