ExploreSouthernHistory.com - DeSoto Falls, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - DeSoto Falls, Georgia
DeSoto Falls Recreation Area
The waterfalls are in an area of Georgia's
Chattahoochee National Forest that is famed for its
history, folklore and scenic beauty.
DeSoto Falls in Georgia
A landmark of the North
Georgia mountains, DeSoto
Falls is in the Chattahoochee
National Forest.
Behind DeSoto Falls
The falls flow year round and
hikers can even walk behind
them for a unique view of the
falling water.
DeSoto Falls - Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
A Mountain Waterfall in Georgia
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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Georgia Waterfall
DeSoto Falls tumbles over a
series of cascades and
smaller waterfalls.
Top of DeSoto Falls
The falls can be viewed from
a platform or the bottom or by
a careful climb to the top.
High in the North Georgia mountains, the
DeSoto Falls trail leads to two picturesque
waterfalls that some believe were visited by
Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto more
than 470 years ago.

Eighteen miles north of Dahlonega and
about nineteen miles west of Helen, DeSoto
Falls Recreation Area is located along
Frogtown Creek in the Chattahoochee
National Forest. The area is rich in history,
folklore and scenic beauty.

The recreation area is only about 3.6 miles
down U.S. 129/U.S. 19 from Neels Gap,
known to early settlers as Frogtown Gap and
to the Cherokee Indians as Walasi-yi. The
unique name originates from the Cherokee
legend of the Walasi.

The Walasi was said to be a gigantic frog -
described by one Cherokee hunter as being
the size of a house - that lived in the area of
the gap. It protected nearby Blood Mountain,
the scene of an ancient battle and a sacred
place to the Cherokee, who had a village at
the gap. Frogtown Creek, which flows
through DeSoto Falls Recreation Area, rises
from springs around the gap.

The DeSoto name for the waterfalls comes
from an old story that artifacts from the
Hernando de Soto expedition were found in
the vicinity during the 1880s. The best known
of these was a piece of iron believed to have
been Spanish armor.

While there is great dispute over even the
approximate route followed by Hernando de
Soto and his men in 1540, the old trail
leading from Nacoochee near Helen to
Frogtown Gap was firmly believed by 19th
century historians to be a strong possibility.

Little is known about the artifacts said to have
been found near the waterfalls, but pieces of
armor dating from the 16th century have been
found elsewhere in the South. It is certainly
possible that more will be found or has been
found.

Because Charles Hudson, a professor at the
University of Georgia, published a theory that
the Spanish expedition crossed the Blue
Ridge far to the north of Georgia, many no
longer gave credence to theories of a more
southerly crossing. Hudson's theory,
however, had weaknesses of its own as
recent discoveries of 16th century artifacts in
South Georgia and elsewhere away from his
route have demonstrated.

Could Hernando de Soto have crossed the
mountains in Georgia instead of North
Carolina and Tennessee, as Hudson's
theory holds?  It is certainly possible and to
date no one has been able to prove one way
or the other.

Future research will provide the final answer
(maybe), but new looks at old theories and
rumored discoveries like the one at DeSoto
Falls might be worthwhile. Until then, the tale
of mysterious Spanish armor dug from the
earth 125 years ago will remain part of the
folklore and charm of the beautiful waterfalls.

There are actually five waterfalls along the
streams that feed Frogtown Creek in the
vicinity of the recreation area, but only two of
these are accessible.
Photos by Savannah Brininstool
The waterfalls are reached by a walking trail
that leads from the bridge at the lower loop of
the recreation area campground. From that
point, it is 0.25 miles to the lower falls and
about 0.75 miles to the upper falls. The trail
is rated easy to moderate. Be sure to carry
water during the warmer months.  You will
need it!

There are wooden overlook platforms at both
waterfalls.

In addition to the waterfalls, the recreation
area is a popular spot for trout fishing. You
can fish in Frogtown Creek for both native
and stocked trout. A state fishing license is
required.  

DeSoto Falls also has a picnic area along
Frogtown Creek and a campground with 24
sites. There are no water or electric hookups,
but other amenities including picnic tables
and grills are available.

To reach DeSoto Falls from
Dahlonega,
travel north on U.S. 19 for 18 miles. The
entrance will be on your left. From Helen,
take S.R. 75 ALT south for just over 8 miles to
U.S. 129. Turn right on U.S. 129 for 7 miles.
As it merges with U.S. 19, continue straight
ahead on U.S. 19/U.S. 129 for another three
miles or so until you see the entrance on
your left. The entrance fee is $3 per day.

Please click here to visit the official USFS
website for more information.