9:00am - 9:00pm EST
Indian Rocks Park
This is one of the rock cairns that can be seen at the park. (Photo by Randy Lewis)
By Lynda Zblewski
One of the earliest developed portions of Big Canoe is the area near Lake
Petit and the Indian Rocks Park. Toby Jones, Big Canoe maintenance
supervisor, believes the Indian Rocks area was designated a park in the late
60s or early 70s.
The most intriguing aspects of the park are the rock cairns that can be
found there. According to Wikipedia, a cairn is a “human-made pile of
stones.” Wikipedia goes on to explain that in modern times cairns are used
as landmarks, but in ancient times they were also used as burial markers and
even served astronomical uses.
There has been much speculation about what these Big Canoe rock formations
mean and how long they have been here. One thing that Jones remembers was
that in the very early days of Big Canoe, it was discovered that some of the
mounds had been disturbed. Jones reports that a couple of Big Canoe
employees gathered up the rocks at those locations and rebuilt the mounds
that had tumbled to the ground.
There are almost as many stories and theories about the cairns as there are
people who have visited them. I have found numerous on-line references to
Indian Rocks Park, and in particular the rock cairns. It’s all pretty much
speculation, as there doesn’t seem to be real proof of any of the claims.
One person even reported that the mounds had been tested for elevated levels
of phosphorous, which would suggest the presence of bone and therefore
indicate a possible burial site (the test was reportedly negative). I
haven’t been able to confirm any such test was ever conducted.
However, Don Wells (president of Mountain Stewards) has shared information
he has been able to confirm. Although it’s difficult to really pinpoint the
purpose of the cairns in Big Canoe he was able to determine that the cairns
on the ridge actually form a snake pattern.
He used a compass to measure the angle that is formed from the last cairn to
the first. This angle is approximately 137 degrees. If you follow the line
of the angle it points directly at the island in the middle of Lake Petit. A
Native American Cherokee told Wells the island was the probable location of
the small Indian village that existed in Big Canoe hundreds of years ago.
According to Wells, villages such as this often had a high place of special
honor where a sacred fire would burn.
Wells also explains that there are a number of other rock cairns that have
been found within both Pickens and Dawson counties. Indian lore regarding
rock cairns indicates that before they were relocated out West, Indians
passing by a rock cairn would pick up another rock and place it on the cairn
as a sign of reverence.
Trails that are easy and popular
Indian Rocks Park is also the starting off point for three trails which
total 0.8 miles. They are the Indian Mounds Loop Trail (0.2 mile), the
Indian Mounds Trail (0.3 mile), and the Lake Petit Trail (0.3 mile).
According to Pete Huber of the Trails committee who is responsible for
walking and maintaining the Indian Mounds trails, this location is very
popular. The trails are easy walks, which lends to their appeal. There is no
poison ivy, but he does recommend you watch out for spiders! And, although
bears have been spotted in the area, none have ever been encountered on the
There are a total of three bridges that you will cross when traveling the
portion of the trail from the area where you cross Quail Cove Drive to the
shores of Lake Petit.
One of these bridges was just recently returned to its proper location. It
had been moved 1500 yards downstream by floodwaters and wind when a tornado
came through Big Canoe a number of years ago. It took the effort of a number
of people to manually drag it back into place.
Maintenance of the trail is ongoing. A big project this year had volunteers
on the Trails Committee relocating a portion of the Lake Petit Trail away
from a marshy area. In 2011 there is a plan to relocate the area of descent
from the parking lot down to the picnic area to facilitate an easier walk.
They also plan to build a bridge at a “rock hop” near the lake. In this
particular area when the water is high it becomes too difficult to cross
The Trails Committee, and particularly Pete Huber, would like to invite you
to visit this intriguing area of Big Canoe. Who knows, you may come up with
your own answer to the “mystery of the mounds.”