Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock in Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States. 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 bas-relief on its north face, the largest bas-relief in the world. The carving depicts three figures of the Confederate States of America: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.
Stone Mountain is more than 5 miles (8.0 km) in circumference at its base, and is surrounded by the Stone Mountain Park. The summit of the mountain can be reached by a walk-up trail on the west side of the mountain only, or by the Skyride aerial tram.
The mountain and carving
|Elevation||1,686 ft (514 m)|
|Prominence||825 ft (251 m)|
|Location||Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States|
|Topo map||USGS Stone Mountain, GA|
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 granite extends 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 misnomer is most likely a result of advertisement by granite companies and early park administration. Stone Mountain, though often called a pink granite dome, actually ranges in composition from quartz monzonite to granite and granodiorite.
The granite is of 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 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, in processes similar to those that have exposed Devils Tower in Wyoming. This vein of granite also gave rise to Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain in DeKalb County, smaller outcroppings further east of Stone Mountain.
The mountain's composition was described by one political commentator—and used as such as a simile for racial segregation in the 1950's—as "soft, exfoliating rock which turns to dust under the hammer."
The carving was conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Venable family, 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 on March 3, 1972.
Carving and the Ku Klux Klanand by the lynching of Leo Frank, who was convicted in the murder of Mary Phagan. On November 25, 1915, a group of robed and hooded men met at Stone Mountain to create a new incarnation of the Klan. They were led by William J. Simmons, and they included a group calling itself the Knights of Mary Phagan. A cross was lit, and the oath was administered by Nathan Bedford Forrest II, the grandson of Gen. Nathan B. Forrest, and was witnessed by the owner of Stone Mountain, Samuel Venable.
Fundraising for the monument resumed in 1923, and in October of that year, Venable granted the Klan easement with perpetual right to hold celebrations as they desired. 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 Borglum, who were both closely associated with the Klan, arranged to pack the SMCMA with Klan members. 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 1924 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. When the state purchased the mountain in 1958, they had removed the Klan and voided Venable's agreement by condemning the properties.
HistoryHuman 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 1790 the mountain was the site of a meeting initiated by President George Washington in hopes of negotiating a peace treaty with the Creek. Instead a series of wars ensued, and the Creek were forced to cede the land to the state of Georgia in 1821.
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 foot (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 mountaintop trail to the top, where Cloud also had a restaurant and club.
Granite quarrying started at Stone Mountain in the 1830's, 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.
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 1950's.
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!"
During the 1996 Summer Olympics, Stone Mountain Park provided venues for Olympic events in tennis, archery and track cycling. The venues for archery and cycling were temporary and are now part of the songbird and habitat trail.
Around dusk on September 16, 2003, in clear weather, a small airplane circled the mountain five times, then crashed headlong into the south side, bursting into flames and killing 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."
GovernanceStone 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
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 towerW266BW 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.
Stone Mountain Trails
Cherokee Trail: A 5-mile (8.0 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. map of Cherokee Trail
Nature Garden Trail: A scenic 3/4 mile 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 one 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.
On summer evenings the mountain hosts the Stone Mountain Laser Show Spectacular, which uses popular and classic music to entertain park guests with a large fireworks and laser light display. The colorful lightshow of lasers project moving images of the Deep South as well as Georgia history onto the Confederate Memorial carving on the side of the mountain. The American Civil War is acknowledged, but the strength of a reunited country concludes the message, with Sandi Patti singing the Star Spangled Banner. There are still old favorites included with the show, “Devil Went down to Georgia” and "An American Trilogy". There have been several additions to the show for its 25th anniversary. During Memorial Day Weekend of 2011, Stone Mountain unveiled their biggest overhaul ever of the laser show, dubbed Mountainvision. This incorporates digital projectors, lasers, special effects, and pyrotechnics into an incredible experience. The projection is 5 times larger than an IMAX screen and taller than the Statue Of Liberty.
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 offers a scenic cruise aboard a reproduction Mississippi riverboat on 363 acre (147 ha) Stone Mountain Lake. (UPDATE: The Riverboat, which used to be one of Stone Mountain Park's attractions to all guests, is now available for events only.)
The Antebellum Plantation is a collection of historic buildings relocated from around the state of Georgia, including 3 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. Crafts 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.
- Atlanta, Georgia, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- City of Stone Mountain, Georgia, from the City of Stone Mountain*Main Street Stone Mountain
- Stone Mountain article, from the New Georgia Encyclopedia
- Stone Mountain Park and City Information*Stone Mountain Park Photos
- Stone Mountain Park website, from the state authority that owns the park
- Stone Mountain Park photo gallery, with current and historical photos
- View from the top of Stone Mountain looking Northeast (1934) and Granite Quarry at Stone Mountain (1913) from the Georgia Geological Survey photographs in the collection of the Georgia Archives.
- Stone Mountain Granite Corporation – Producers and Manufacturers Stone Mountain Light Gray Granite For Building Work – Dorian Gray For Mausoleums and Monuments & Stone Mountain Granite Corporation Granite Price List, circa 1914 (Office, quarries, and finishing plant located at Stone Mountain, Georgia)
- Southeast Granite Company - Stone Mountain Granite Memorial/Monumental Stones Catalog
- Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad
- The Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation
- Georgia Railroad
- Ku Klux Klan
- Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar
- Roy Faulkner finished memorial
- Walker Hancock worked on Memorial
- Augustus Lukeman
- Gutzon Borglum Started Monument
- Piedmont region
- Alleghenian Orogeny
- Arabia Mountain in DeKalb County
- Panola Mountain in DeKalb County
- quartz monzonite
- dome monadnock
- Stone Mountain, Georgia