Every day thousands of people, many of them residents of Douglas County, travel Interstate 20 east into Atlanta. When you pass Thornton Road and reach the top of Douglas Hill you are met with a wonderful view of the Atlanta skyline, but what most people don’t realize is that they on the western edge of the Brevard Fault with the Chattahoochee River positioned at the lowest point of the fault. The eastern edge of the fault is located at Interstate 285 where you see rock cliffs.
Fred and Sherri Smith, authors of The Riverkeeper’s Guide to the Chattahoochee River state, “Seen from a globe-circling, picture-snapping satellite high above the Earth’s surface, the Brevard Fault looks like a monstrous incision across the torso of Georgia made by the Great Physician operating under battlefield conditions.” It’s a fairly long incision travelling across the state of Georgia from South Carolina and into Alabama for a total of 160 miles. It is the unofficial dividing line between the Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont Plateau, and forms a channel for the Chattahoochee River for approximately 100 miles of is 540-mile course…The Brevard Fault zone...runs directly through the Sweetwater basin which gives the area a more mountainous environment than surrounding communities.”
Have you ever noticed as you travel around in and near Sweetwater Creek State Park the area has a mountainous feel? The Brevard Fault is the reason why the park has rugged trails, rocky bluffs and rapids to navigate. It is why we see such steep grades, rolling hills, and why the water flows so fast in certain sections like a mountain stream. In fact, the Smiths state, “….Sweetwater Creek, for example drops 120 feet from Austell to the Chattahoochee River; it drops 80 feet within the boundaries of Sweetwater Creek State Park alone. North-facing coves on [the creek] harbor trees, shrubs [like Mountain Laurel], herbs and wildflowers usually associated with the Appalachian Mountains to the north. The Fault also made it possible for the historic mills–New Manchester, Ferguson and Alexander’s Mill–to be located along the creek since they needed the water power.”
It’s amazing to me that minutes from downtown Atlanta, close to Interstate 20, and seconds from most of our homes Sweetwater Creek State Park provides more than approximately 2,500 acres of peaceful wilderness including a 215-acre lake, ambling streams, forests full of all types of flora and fauna, and historic ruins. The park has been described as an extensive wilderness setting within 15 minutes of downtown Atlanta, and the park’s extensive size allows it to support a diversity of native fauna.
So, now that you know the eastern edge of Douglas County follows a geological fault should you be worried? Should you rush out and purchase earthquake insurance?
While it’s true that the Brevard Fault formed millions of years ago due to pieces of the Earth’s crust moving against each other, I don’t think we need to be too worried. The Brevard Fault is an ancient one, and geologists tell us it hasn’t experienced any movement for 185 million years.
All we need to do is enjoy the beauty left behind!
Lisa Cooper is local historian and former educator who writes on the amazing stories of Douglasville’s past.