A three mile drive down a gravel road into Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest will take you to the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi.
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The Toccoa River Swinging Bridge
On a summer weekend my friends Jim and Ken and I set off to find Sea Creek Falls, a waterfall supposedly located 20 miles from Pinebox, my North Georgia mountain cabin. I say “supposedly” because I had failed to find this water feature on a previous solo expedition, nor did we locate it on this excursion. Before we could even make it to our planned destination, we got sidetracked by another potential adventure. But that's what happens when you head out on an day trip, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Experience has taught us to have a destination in mind and make a plan, but never etch the itinerary in stone, because serendipity (AKA “fortuitous happenstance”) may have other plans.
I have driven GA-60 between Blue Ridge and Suches, Georgia, many times in the past decade, but I don't remember ever seeing the sign to Toccoa River Swinging Bridge. In fact, we passed the turn-off to the bridge this time, but we decided to turn around and check it out since we were already in the vicinity. Shortly after leaving the highway, we slowed while passing a car on its way out. The friendly driver told us it was a 3-mile drive through the forest to the bridge. FS 816 is a narrow winding gravel road full of washouts, potholes, and boulders typical of National Forest Service roads in the area, but we found it a great opportunity to roll down the windows and enjoy the cool breeze while trekking deeper into the Chattahoochee National Forest. Soon we joined several vehicles already parked in the area where FS 816 came to a dead end. We noticed multiple trails leading in different directions, but a boisterous family group of exiting hikers helped us choose the right path. From the parking area, the Toccoa River and swinging bridge were just a short walk through the woods.
At 265 feet in length, this is supposedly the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. I say “supposedly” again, because I have crossed other swinging bridges in North Carolina and Florida, and this one doesn't appear to be any longer than the others, but perhaps it is. The views of the Toccoa River and surrounding mountains are spectacular, but my favorite scenic spot was located across the bridge on the opposite bank where a creek with small waterfalls flowed into the river.
As we headed back to the parking area a gentle rain started to fall, but we didn't even quicken our step. Something about a sprinkle of rain while taking a walk through the woods only adds to the experience we call summer in the North Georgia mountains. Previous spontaneous side trips have led us on wild goose chases (read about one of those adventures here), but this time “fortuitous happenstance” and the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge were on our side.
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