How You Can Improve Climbing Access at Tallulah Gorge
Currently, climbing access is only available through a permit, and those permits are extremely limited, unpredictable, and highly restricted.
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Tallulah Gorge is a premier traditional climbing destination in Georgia. The exceptional, river-sculpted canyon in Northeast Georgia has been a mainstay for climbers and outdoor recreationalists in the region for decades. With a long and storied climbing history, and more than 75 routes ranging from moderate multi-pitch classics to challenging single-pitch trad climbs, the gorge is a dream come true for climbers seeking adventurous routes in an unparalleled natural setting.
Tallulah Gorge is the only state park in Georgia that allows rock climbing, and it is managed by Georgia State Parks. The Tallulah river, and its upstream dams, is regulated in coordination with Georgia Power. The dam release schedule, which is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), heavily influences access and recreation in the gorge. Despite being a permitted form of recreation, the park has no formal policy that guides how climbing is managed. This leaves all decisions related to climbing to the discretion of park managers, which has led to inconsistencies and unnecessary challenges for climbers and park staff on the ground.
Climbing access is only available through a permit, and those permits are extremely limited, unpredictable, and highly restricted. For example, zero climbing permits were issued from January 1 to March 1 of this year, and with aesthetic and whitewater releases scheduled on almost all weekends in April and May, a weekend climber will likely not be able to climb in the gorge until May 27th. While the park’s reasons for the lack of permits vary, the bottom line is that this small window of available dates during the prime climbing season, combined with the inconsistent permit approval process, makes accessing Tallulah Gorge extremely challenging for the average climber.
Over the past 30 years, Access Fund has partnered with Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) and the local climbing community, including the American Alpine Club-Atlanta Chapter and Atlanta Climbing Club, to work with the park on all aspects of climbing management, including stewardship, permitted access, peregrine management, and search and rescue. Despite this collaboration, climbing management at Tallulah Gorge remains challenging. Tallulah Gorge State Park’s approach to climbing management and policy is minimal, restrictive, and inconsistent with modern climbing management practices in the region and across the country. Access Fund, SCC, and our local partners remain committed to working with the State Park, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Georgia Power to expand access, improve the climbing experience, and ease the park’s management burden.
We need your help to advocate for improved climber access and management at Tallulah Gorge. Sign the petition to help us drive specific policy changes:
- A stand alone, self-issued, climbing permit that is separate from the Gorge Floor permit and based on approved policy rather than individual park staff discretion;
- An updated Search and Rescue plan, in partnership with local SAR teams, that adequately addresses climber rescues using modern techniques and best practices;
- An updated raptor management approach using the latest federal agency science and utilizing climbers and other volunteers for monitoring and data collection;
- A modern climbing management plan or clear set of park climbing policies to improve access, safety, protect natural resources, support the park, and strengthen the partnership with climbers;
- Better collaboration with local partners, like SCC, around climber stewardship and sustainability.
We need all climbers to help us implement an effective strategy, focused on solutions, at Tallulah Gorge. Rock climbing is an important component of Georgia’s overall outdoor recreation economy. Together we can help the state realize this and promote best climbing management practices and improved access at places like Tallulah Gorge.
Get in the Gorge Survey
If you visit Tallulah Gorge, please take a moment to fill out the SCC’s Get in the Gorge Survey after your trip. This survey is meant to collect responses from climbers about their visit and to help with data collection on the park’s climbing permit system.
To help us drive needed policy changes at Tallulah Gorge, please sign our petition here.