Beyond Destin: Georgia’s Providence Canyon State Park
Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column which will be featured on Wednesdays, will follow the wanderings of reporter, Savannah Vasquez, and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.
This weekend my husband and I decided to travel a bit farther than usual to visit a land feature in Georgia that I had no idea existed this far south. Dubbed Georgia’s ‘Little Grand Canyon,’ Providence Canyon State Park is a wonder well worth the four hour drive. Hidden in the midst of rolling farm land, the canyons are actually a byproduct of bad farming practices from the 1800’s. Early farmers plowed their fields with no knowledge of soil management practices and within 50 years the ground had given way to large ditches and gullies.
Today, the erosion process has continued, due to ground water, with the deepest canyon cutting 150 feet into the earth. Several geological layers have been revealed in this process; in fact, 43 color ranges have been identified in the canyons including red clay formations, white sandstone sculptures, and even purple mineral-stained features.
When we arrived at the park, Cristian and I decided to first hike the canyon trail to explore the nine different viewpoints from below. When we reached the canyon floor we were surprised to find that much of the trail resembled low-lying creek beds, as ground water constantly flows through the land. Caught off guard, we quickly learned that Converse were not the ideal shoes to wear on our hike, but we decided the beauty of the canyon outweighed the inconvenience of wet feet.
The first sight of the canyon wall took my breath away. I stood in awe of the height of the formations as well as the beautiful contrasting colors. We took our time exploring the different canyons; some offered large picturesque views while others yielded unique features such as crevices you could walk inside. I just couldn’t get over the fact that these formations that resembled the western state canyons were only a four hour drive from my sea-side home.
As the canyons are fragile and ever-eroding, we learned it is against the law to climb on or deface the formations. In some places we noticed signs of recent erosion as tree roots poked out of the top of the canyon, and piles of fresh clay sat along the bottom. We also saw that some do not respect these natural wonders as several names were etched in the side of the canyon walls.
After hiking the lower trails we headed back to the crest to view the entire canyon field from above. It was amazing to see the towering views we had just experienced from the top, as it really gave perspective to the depth of these amazing Georgia canyons.
Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area is located four hours northeast of Destin in Lumpkin, Georgia. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the spring and summer and entry to the park costs $5 per car. Make sure to bring water-proof hiking shoes and plenty of water with you if you plan on hiking the lower canyon trails. Camping is also available at the park upon reservation. For more information call 229-838-6202 or visit www.gastateparks.org/ProvidenceCanyon.