Bartram National Recreation Trail Overview

Two hundred years ago naturalist and explorer William Bartram roamed the southern wilderness of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. Traveling alone, he studied the plants and animals of the region and recorded his findings in his journal, The Travels of William Bartram.

Along the way he got to know the native people of the region, who gave him good advice about what plants were important and distinctive. Bartram's journal is considered by many to be the first in a long tradition of American spiritual naturalists, a tradition that includes Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Anne Dillard. Before Bartram, the overwhelming European cultural sentiment was that wilderness is the enemy and the indigenous people who lived close to it were less than fully human.

Through references in Bartram's journal to landmarks such as waterfalls, rivers, and mountaintops, the Bartram National Recreation Trail follows as near as could be determined Bartram's route. Underappreciated, the Bartram Trail covers much of the same (spectacular) terrain as the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and North Carolina, but offers a much more solitary experience.

From the North Carolina border, the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society has done a superlative job of maintaining and documenting another 80 miles of a path that crosses three mountain ridges: the Fishhawk, the Nantahala, and the Cheoh. If you're seriously considering hiking this portion of the trail, you should contact the society for a set of trail guides. Of particular interest is Section Three, which features an 11-mile canoe trail in addition to the foot trail. GORP offers descriptions of two short segments of the trail in the Nantahala National Forest.

The Georgia portion of the trail stretches for 38 miles in the Chattahoochee National Forest from the West Fork of Chattooga River over the summit of Rabun Bald to the Georgia-North Carolina border. There's good fishing along the way in the many streams that cross or run near the trail.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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