Stone Mountain

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Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain, the carving, and the Train.jpeg
The mountain, rock relief, and train.
Highest point
Elevation 1,686 ft (514 m)
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Topo map USGS Stone Mountain, GA

Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock and the site of Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia. At its summit, the elevation is 1,686 feet (514 m) MSL and 825 feet (251 m) above the surrounding area. Stone Mountain is well-known not only for its geology, but also for the enormous rock relief on its north face, the largest bas-relief in the world.[1] The carving depicts three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.

Stone Mountain was once owned by the Venable Brothers and was the site of the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915. It was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1958.

Stone Mountain is more than 5 miles (8 km) in circumference at its base. The summit of the mountain can be reached by a walk-up trail on the west side of the mountain or by the Skyride aerial tram.


South side of Stone Mountain from the Songbird Habitat and Trail in 2009.

Stone Mountain is a pluton, a type of igneous intrusion. Primarily composed of quartz monzonite, the dome of Stone Mountain was formed during the formation of the Blue Ridge Mountains around 300-350 million years ago (during the Carboniferous period), part of the Appalachian Mountains.[2] It formed as a result of the upwelling of magma from within the Earth's crust. This magma solidified to form granite within the crust five to ten miles below the surface.

Stone Mountain pluton continues underground 9 miles (14 km) at its longest point into Gwinnett County. Numerous reference books and Georgia literature have dubbed Stone Mountain as “the largest exposed piece of granite in the world". This misconception is most likely a result of misrepresentation by granite companies and early park administration. Stone Mountain, though often called a pink granite dome, actually ranges in composition from quartz monzonite[3] to granite and granodiorite.[4]

The minerals within the rock include quartz, plagioclase feldspar, microcline and muscovite, with smaller amounts of biotite and tourmaline. The tourmaline is mostly black in color, and the majority of it exists as optically continuous skeletal[5] crystals, but much larger, euhedral pegmatitic tourmaline crystals can also be found in the mountain's numerous, cross-cutting felsic dikes. Embedded in the granite are xenoliths or pieces of foreign rocks entrained in the magma.

The granite intruded into the metamorphic rocks of the Piedmont region during the last stages of the Alleghenian Orogeny, which was the time when North America and North Africa collided. Over time, erosion eventually exposed the present mountain of more resistant igneous rock. This intrusion of granite also gave rise to Panola Mountain and Arabia Mountain, both in DeKalb County, smaller outcroppings further east of Stone Mountain.

Natural history

Summit of Stone Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain in Background

The top of the mountain is a landscape of bare rock and rock pools, and it provides views of the surrounding area including the skyline of downtown Atlanta, often Kennesaw Mountain, and on very clear days even the Appalachian Mountains. On some days, the top of the mountain is shrouded in a heavy fog, and visibility may be limited to only a few feet. The clear freshwater pools of the summit form by rainwater gathering in eroded depressions, and are home to unusual clam shrimp and fairy shrimp. The tiny shrimp appear only during the rainy season. Through the process of cryptobiosis, the tiny shrimp eggs (or cysts) can remain dormant for years in the dried out depressions, awaiting favorable conditions.

Leaves of the Georgia oak

The mountain's lower slopes are wooded. The rare Georgia oak was first discovered at the summit, and several specimens can easily be found along the walk-up trail and in the woods around the base of the mountain. In the fall, the extremely rare Confederate yellow daisy (Helianthus porteri) flowers appear on the mountain, growing in rock crevices and in the large wooded areas.

Confederate Memorial

Close-up of the memorial

The largest bas relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (and their favorite horses, "Blackjack", "Traveller", and "Little Sorrel", respectively). The entire carved surface measures 1.57 acres (6,400 m2), just a bit smaller than the size of two football fields. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet (120 m) above the ground, measures 76 by 158 feet (23 by 48 m), and is recessed 42 feet (13 m) into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee's right elbow, which is 12 feet (3.7 m) to the mountain's surface.[6]

The carving was conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Venable Brothers, owners of the mountain, deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916. The UDC was given 12 years to complete a sizable Civil War monument. Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to do the carving. Borglum abandoned the project in 1925 (and later went on to begin Mount Rushmore). American sculptor Augustus Lukeman continued until 1928, when further work stopped for thirty years. In 1958, at the urging of Governor Marvin Griffin, the Georgia legislature approved a measure to purchase Stone Mountain for $1,125,000. In 1963, Walker Hancock was selected to complete the carving, and work began in 1964. The carving was completed by Roy Faulkner, who later operated a museum (now closed) on nearby Memorial Drive commemorating the carving's history. The carving was considered complete[7] on March 3, 1972.

Carving and the Ku Klux Klan

The revival of the Ku Klux Klan was emboldened by the release of D. W. Griffith's Klan-glorifying film The Birth of a Nation,[8] and coincided with the August 1915 lynching of Leo Frank. On November 25 of the same year, a small group, including fifteen robed and hooded "charter members" of the new organization, met at Stone Mountain to create a new iteration of the Klan. They were led by William J. Simmons, and included two elderly members of the original Klan. As part of their ceremony, they burned a crude cross.[9]

Fundraising for the monument resumed in 1923. In October of that year, Venable granted the Klan easement with perpetual right to hold celebrations as they desired.[10] The influence of the UDC continued, in support of Mrs. Plane's vision of a carving explicitly for the purpose of creating a Confederate memorial. The UDC established the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Association (SMCMA) for fundraising and on-site supervision of the project. Venable and Gutzon Borglum, who were both closely associated with the Klan, arranged to pack the SMCMA with Klan members.[11] The SMCMA, along with the United Daughters of the Confederacy continued fundraising efforts. Of the $250,000 raised, part came from the federal government, which in 1925 issued special fifty-cent coins with the soldiers Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on them, but would not allow the politician Jefferson Davis to be included.[12] When the state completed the purchase in 1960, it condemned the property to remove Venable's agreement to allow the Klan perpetual right to hold meetings on the premises.[11]

William J. Simmons founded the reborn Klan atop Stone Mountain in 1915
Atlanta Constitution clipping Nov. 28, 1915 describing the Klan re-establishment atop Stone Mountain

Confederate Memorial controversy

In 2015, Stone Mountain was the subject of a political debate related to the removal of symbols of the Confederacy.[13] This controversy was stimulated by a movement in other states to remove the Confederate Battle flag from public areas. A proposal was made to remove the carving of the three Civil War Generals from the face of the mountain.[14][irrelevant citation] Any changes in the state park would require approval by the state legislature. The change would be seen as destruction of art history due to the beginning of the carving by Gutzon Borglum, who later went on to begin Mount Rushmore.[15] On October 11, 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the park is considering installation of a permanent "Freedom Bell" honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and the line "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia" as part of King's I Have A Dream speech of 1963.[16] The proposed monument was inspired by a bell ringing ceremony held in 2013 honoring the 50th anniversary of King's speech.


Human habitation of Stone Mountain and its surroundings date back into prehistory. When the mountain was first encountered by European explorers, its summit was encircled by a rock wall, similar to that still to be found on Georgia's Fort Mountain. The wall is believed to have been built by early Native American inhabitants of the area, although its purpose remains unclear. By the beginning of the 20th century the wall had disappeared, the rocks having been taken away by early visitors as souvenirs, rolled down the rockface, or removed by the commercial quarrying operation. The mountain was as well the eastern end of the Campbelton Trail, a Native American path that ran through what is now the Atlanta area.

Europeans first learned of the mountain in 1597, when Spanish explorers were told of a mountain further inland which was "very high, shining when the sun set like a fire." By this time, the Stone Mountain area was inhabited by the Creek and (to a lesser extent) Cherokee peoples.

In the early 19th century, the area was known as Rock Mountain. After the founding of DeKalb County and the county seat of Decatur in 1822, Stone Mountain was a natural recreation area; it was common for young men to take their dates on horseback from Decatur to the mountain.

Entrepreneur Aaron Cloud built a 165 feet (50 m) wooden observation tower at the summit of the mountain in 1838, but it was destroyed by a storm and replaced by a much smaller tower in 1851. Visitors to the mountain would travel to the area by rail and road, and then walk up the 1.1-mile (1.8 km) mountaintop trail to the top, where Cloud also had a restaurant and club.

Granite quarrying started at Stone Mountain in the 1830s, but became a major industry following the completion of a railroad spur to the quarry site in 1847. This line was rebuilt by the Georgia Railroad in 1869. Over the years, Stone Mountain granite was used in many buildings and structures, including the locks of the Panama Canal, the steps to the East Wing of the United States Capitol and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. In recent years, granite suppliers in Georgia sent stone samples cut from Stone Mountain to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation to be considered for use in a planned monument in King's honor; the Foundation later chose to use granite imported from China.[17] Unfortunately, quarrying during earlier periods also destroyed several spectacular geological features on Stone Mountain, such as the Devil's Crossroads, which was located on top of the mountain.

In 1887 Stone Mountain was purchased for $45,000 by the Venable Brothers of Atlanta, who quarried the mountain for 24 more years, and descendents of the Venable family would retain ownership of the mountain until it was purchased by the State of Georgia in the 1950s.

Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned the monument in his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., when he said "let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!"[18]

During the 1996 Summer Olympics, Stone Mountain Park provided venues for Olympic events in tennis, archery and track cycling.[19][20] The venues for archery and cycling were temporary and are now part of the songbird and habitat trail.[21]

Aviation incidents

File:Stone Mountain Grist Mill.jpg
Grist Mill at Stone Mountain

According to George Weiblen's annotated calendar for Monday, May 7, 1928: "Mail plane crashed on mountain at 8:00 P.M."[citation needed] The pilot, Johnny S. Kytle (1905 - 1931), not only survived the crash, but managed to grab the mail and walk down the mountain.

Around dusk on September 16, 2003, in clear weather, a small airplane circled the mountain five times, then crashed headlong into the south side, burst into flames and killed the pilot. A witness testifying at the NTSB investigation stated that the pilot, a 69-year-old accountant, had threatened on multiple occasions to commit suicide by flying into the mountain. The official NTSB accident report lists the probable cause as "The pilot's intentional flight into the ground for the purpose of suicide while impaired by alcohol."[22]


Stone Mountain Park, which surrounds the Confederate Memorial, is owned by the state of Georgia and managed by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, a Georgia state authority. The Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation currently has a long-term contract to operate park attractions while the Stone Mountain Memorial Association retains ownership and the right to reject any project deemed unfit.

Places of interest

File:Stone Mountain Covered Bridge.jpg
Covered Bridge at Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad depot (1971 photograph)
Carillon at Stone Mountain Park; January 2012
Pavilion and transmitting tower at the summit of Stone Mountain

Confederate Hall, operated directly by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association or SMMA, is a museum that educates students and park guests on the geology and ecology of Stone Mountain as well as historical aspects of the area. A small theater shows a historical documentary about the Civil War in Georgia called "The Battle for Georgia".

The education department is host to thousands of students each school year teaching the subjects of geology, ecology, and history. Classes are designed to meet the Georgia Performance Standards and the North American Association for Environmental Education guidelines.

The Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard is an open-air museum composed of 19 historic buildings, built between 1790 and 1875, which have been re-erected to the site to represent a pre-Civil War Georgia plantation. The historic houses have been furnished with an extensive collection of period furniture and decorations. The farm features live animals that guests can pet.

A 732-bell carillon that originated at the 1964 New York World's Fair, provides a daily concert.

A covered bridge, dating from 1892, which originally spanned the Oconee River in Athens, Georgia.

A grist mill, dating from 1869 and moved to the park in 1965.

Broadcast tower

The mountain top and Skyride

The short broadcast tower on the top of the mountain transmits two non-commercial stations: television station WGTV TV 8, and weather radio station KEC80 on 162.55 MHz. FM radio station WABE FM 90.1 was located on this tower from 1984 until 2005, when it was required to relocate to accommodate WGTV's digital conversion.[citation needed] W266BW FM 101.1 now has a permit as well. Atop the tower also sits the W4BOC Amateur Radio repeater which operates on a frequency on 146.760.

The tower is also used for the park's Project 25 two-way radio systems.[23][24]

Scenic Railroad

Stone Mountain Trails

Stone Mountain walk-up trail

Walk Up Trail: A 1.3-mile (2.1 km) trail to the top of Stone Mountain ascending 786 ft (240 m) in elevation to a height of 1,686 ft (514 m). The trail is steep, but spectacular panoramic views and cool winds await hikers at the top.

Cherokee Trail: A 5-mile (8 km) National Recreation Trail, the Cherokee Trail loops around the mountain base, with a mile section going up and over the west side of the mountain (crosses Walk Up Trail). Primarily passes through an oak-hickory forest, but views of the lakes, streams, and mountain are common.[25]

Nature Garden Trail: A scenic 34 mile (1.2 km) loop trail through a mature oak-hickory forest community. Excellent for viewing shade-loving native plants. A small garden with interpretive native plant signs is at the entrance to the trail.

Songbird Habitat Trails: Two loop trails each running 1 mile (1.6 km). The field trail is an excellent birding spot and the woodland trail provides shade and numerous native plants. Dogs are not allowed.


Stone Mountain riverboat

The Park features several attractions that are operated by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation.

On summer evenings the mountain hosts the Stone Mountain Laser Show Spectacular, a fireworks and laser light display. The laser lightshow projects moving images of the Deep South as well as Georgia history onto the Confederate Memorial carving on the side of the mountain. During Memorial Day Weekend of 2011, Stone Mountain unveiled their overhaul of the laser show, dubbed Mountainvision. This incorporates digital projectors, lasers, special effects, and pyrotechnics.[26]

The Skyride is a Swiss-built cable car to the summit of the mountain, which passes by the carving on the way up.

The Riverboat offered a scenic cruise aboard a reproduction of a Mississippi riverboat on 363-acre (147 ha) Stone Mountain Lake. It has been retired.

The Antebellum Plantation is a collection of historic buildings relocated from around the state of Georgia, including three plantation manor houses dating from 1794, 1850, and 1845, two slave cabins, a barn, and other outbuildings. The Plantation Farmyard features historic breeds of sheep, goats, and pigs that guests can pet.

Crossroads is a recreation of an 1872 southern town with several attractions including a modern 4-D movie theater, an adventure mini-golf course, a duck tour ride, stores and restaurants. Craft demonstrators include glass blowing and candy making. Other attractions in this area include:

The Great Barn is a children's activity area that features 65 interactive games, climbing structures, trampoline floors, slides and more.

Sky Hike is a family ropes adventure course. Guests can choose their own path and level of challenge.

Geyser Towers is a playground featuring a large fountain at the entrance, so guests have the option of climbing through the course or getting wet.

Panoramic view from the top of Stone Mountain. The skyline of Atlanta is visible at right.

See also


  1. "Stone Mountain.", retrieved February 2007.
  2. "New Georgia Encyclopedia: Granite Outcrops". 2005-01-07. Retrieved 2012-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Herrmann, L.A. 1954. Geology of the Stone Mountain-Lithonia District, Georgia. Georgia Geological Survey Bulletin 61. Atlanta, GA.
  4. Grant, W.H. 1962. Field excursion, Stone Mountain-Lithonia district. Georgia Geologic Survey Guidebook 2. Atlanta, Georgia
  5. Skeletal Tourmaline, Undercooling, and Crystallization History of the Stone Mountain Granite, Georgia, U.S.A., Kristen M. Longfellow and Samuel E. Swanson (incomplete ref)
  6. "Just how big is the Stone Mountain sculpture?".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Stone Mountain History" (PDF). Retrieved February 2007. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "A Painful Present as Historians Confront a Nation's Bloody Past". Retrieved 2014-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "The Various Shady Lives of the Ku Klux Klan". Time magazine. April 9, 1965. An itinerant Methodist preacher named William Joseph Simmons started up the Klan again in Atlanta in 1915. Simmons, an ascetic-looking man, was a fetishist on fraternal organizations. He was already a "colonel" in the Woodmen of the World, but he decided to build an organization all his own. He was an effective speaker, with an affinity for alliteration; he had preached on "Women, Weddings and Wives," "Red Heads, Dead Heads and No Heads," and the "Kinship of Kourtship and Kissing." On Thanksgiving Eve 1915, Simmons took 15 friends to the top of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, built an altar on which he placed an American flag, a Bible and an unsheathed sword, set fire to a crude wooden cross, muttered a few incantations about a "practical fraternity among men," and declared himself Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. The Klan - Patsy Sims - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Stone Mountain Carving". Retrieved 2014-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Shaff, Howard & Audrey arl Shaff, ‘’Six Wars at a Time: the lif and times of Gutzon Borglum, Sculptor of Mt. Rushmore’’, The Center For Western Studies, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 1985 p. 207
  13. ""Debate brewing over Stone Mountain Park's Confederate flags". Retrieved 2015-08-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>."
  14. ""Atlanta NAACP calls for removal". Retrieved 2015-08-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"
  15. "The removal of the Confederate carving at Stone Mountain is seen as unlikely". Retrieved 2015-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"
  17. Democracy in America American politics (August 30, 2011). "Martin Luther King: A blockheaded memorial". The Economist. Retrieved 2012-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. King, Martin Luther, Jr (28 August 1963). "I have a Dream". Lillian Goldman Law Library. Retrieved 8 October 2011. let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 1. p. 543.
  20. 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 3. pp. 448, 453.
  21. Driving Map: Stone Mountain Park (2009). Pamphlet. Stone Mountain, Georgia: Stone Mountain Park.
  22. NTSB Accident Report: Stone Mountain, 16 September 2003.
  23. Stone Mountain Park Memorial Association system: WPRF799 (public safety) FCC website
  24. Stone Mountain Park Memorial Association system: WNAU431 (businesses) FCC website
  25. [1] Archived March 10, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  26. "Stone Mountain Park Debuts New Lasershow Spectacular™ in Mountainvision This Summer - STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga., March 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/". 2011-03-21. Retrieved 2014-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Deborah Yost (1997). Georgia's Stone Mountain Park. Aerial Photography Services, Inc. ISBN 1-880970-11-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Golden Ink (1994–2003). About North Georgia: Stone Mountain. Retrieved July 29, 2005.
  • James W. Loewen (1999). Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New Press. ISBN 1-56584-344-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Stone Mountain Memorial Association (2005). Stone Mountain: Ecosystem. Retrieved July 30, 2005.
  • United Daughters of the Confederacy(2007). Georgia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
  • Atlanta's Stone Mountain: A Multicultural History (2011) Written by: Paul Stephen Hudson and Laura Pond Mirza.

External links