Once, the Etowah River flowed freely between Cartersville's Pine Mountain and Vineyard Mountain. Today, atop a towering bluff high above the river bed, a picturesque panorama awaits those who hike the trails at Cooper's Furnace.
Operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and closed during some months, the Cooper's Furnace Day Use Area is accessible from US Highway 41 just south of Cartersville. The scenic riverside drive down drive Old River Road features its own views of the Etowah as it flows away from the dam, plus the remains of an historic train bridge adjacent to Highway 41.
We started our hike by heading up Cooper Furnace Trail, leading to a hillside hiking path. A short way in, we arrived at the small pond originally created by a beaver dam. The lake is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks and birds which make homes in the many birdhouses. Continuing on, the dirt trail generally follows the stream that creates the pond, then crosses a small bridge where it begins a steep and rocky ascent.
A plethora of signs highlight points and facts of interest, including the history of a mining rail line that once traveled alongside the stream. About half way up the hill, and approximately 0.8 miles from the start, a trail spur leads to a wooden overlook area. Take a few minutes to follow the spur, as the overlook also offers good nature and landscape photo opportunities. Continuing up, and just below the summit, a larger outcropping of rocks is home to a number of small forest animals who use the various cracks, crags and holes for shelter.
Continuing up to the summit, we reached the small observation park overlooking the dam. From here, Lake Allatoona lies to the East, the dam and Etowah River valley to the South, the cooling towers of Georgia Power’s coal-fired Plant Bowen to the West, and the rising foothills of the Smokey Mountains to the North. At this point, you’re about 300 feet above the river and valley floor level, and looking down approximately 100 feet to the top of the dam. During boating season, the promontory park is a great place to watch sailboats and other water craft arrive at and depart from the marina directly across the lake at Red Top Mountain State Park.
Nearby Walks and Hikes and Activities
Nearby to Cooper's Furnace, you may also enjoy these other hikes, walks and activities:
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