Cloudland Canyon State Park in Dade County, Georgia

The intersection of 2 creeks eroding through sedimentary rock formed the spectacular Cloudland Canyon located in the northwest corner of Georgia.  For tens of millions of years Bear Creek and Daniel Creek cut through layers of shale and sandstone.  Both of these types of sedimentary rock formed here during the Pennsylvanian Age (320 million BP-286 million years BP) when this region was sandy shoreline and muddy shallow sea.  Sand buried under pressure conglomerated into sandstone, while shale is simply fossilized mud.  A continental collision caused the uplifting of the Appalachian Mountains raising the elevation of this area with its layers of sedimentary rock.  Shale is a soft rock and easily eroded, but sandstone is more resistant to erosion.  The creeks have eroded through the shale causing the overlying sandstone to collapse into the valley.  This ongoing process has been continuously widening this canyon.


View of the eastside of Cloudland Canyon from the west rim.  There are at least 4 waterfalls on that side of the canyon.


The canyon walls consist of layers of erosion resistant sandstone on top of layers of shale.  As the shale erodes, overlying sandstone shelves collapse into the canyon, widening it.


Lookout Valley is beyond Cloudland Canyon.  Sand Mountain can be seen in the distance.


All the rock in this location dates to the Pennsylvanian Age when this locality was at the bottom of a shallow sea.  It was then uplifted by the collision of continental plates.  There’s reportedly fossilized wood in some of these rocks, but I didn’t see any.

I walked along the overlook part of the West Rim Trail.  By far the most common trees were rock chestnut oak (Quercus montana) and Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana).  White pine, shortleaf pine, red cedar, southern red oak, post oak, sand hickory, rhododendron, and mountain laurel are also present.  Reportedly, serviceberry grows here.  I’ve never had a chance to try this blueberry-like fruit, but it doesn’t ripen until June.  There are 3 types of natural communities in Cloudland Canyon State Park–acidic oak/pine forest, acidic cliffs, and calcareous cliffs.


Black vultures soaring. Click to enlarge. Cliff ledges make excellent nesting sites for vultures, eagles, falcons, swallows, and other smaller birds.


Another view of the rounded peak.


Trees are hiding this waterfall.  The intersection of 2 creeks–Bear and Daniel–created Cloudland Canyon.

Most cliffs are pristine environments because there is little industrial use for them, and they’ve been left unmodified by man.  Cliffs are fascinating environments (See:  They provide nesting habitat for many species of birds.  During the Pleistocene teratorns, California condors, golden eagles, the extinct Grinnell’s crested eagle, and ravens probably nested on the cliffs in the above photographs.



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