Big Canoe Indian Rocks Park

History embedded in all areas of Big Canoe's Indian Rocks Park

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Big Canoe Hiking Trails

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 trail.

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 over.

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.”