Commonly Asked Questions about the Track Rock Gap Stone Landscape

What is the Track Rock Gap stone landscape?

Stone landscape sites, such as the one located near Track Rock Gap on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Union County, Georgia, occur throughout the region and are not unusual.  Some mark important geographical locations while others have a ceremonial origin.  In Georgia these were created by the Cherokee and Creek Indians and by their ancestors, while they were created by other Tribes in other states.  American Indians consider these to be an important type of site that should be respected and protected.  Archeologists do not understand everything about the function and use of these sites, but research is continuing.  The Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service is working with the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) to study these sites so that we can better understand and protect stone landscape sites. 

 

Can I visit the Track Rock Gap stone landscape?

The Track Rock Gap stone landscape site is not closed to visitors. However, the Forest Service does not encourage visitation to better protect this sensitive and fragile site. Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), information relating to the specific location of archaeological sites within the forest is exempt from public disclosure in order to protect fragile cultural resources (36 CFR296.18). Visitors to Track Rock Gap are welcome to explore the adjacent Track Rock Gap rock art site, one of the best examples of American Indian rock art in the Southeast. It is a fascinating place that is designed to accommodate visitors without harming the site. Visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/conf/trackrock to find labeled illustrations and interpretations of the petroglyphs, related stories from the American Indians who inhabited the site, and information about how the rock art was created and why. Some other examples of similar stone landscapes are present in Georgia and open to the public, including Fort Mountain State Park and Rock Eagle 4H Center. These areas are designed to accommodate visitors.

 

Who created the stone landscape at Track Rock Gap?

Track Rock Gap is an important site created by Creek and Cherokee people beginning over 1,000 years ago. It was originally recorded in 1999 and has been documented and studied by professional archeologists since then. This site was demonstrated to be at least partially American Indian in origin (Creek and Cherokee), although some of the rock features may be Euro-American (recent settlers). The Forest Service works in close consultation with Creek and Cherokee tribal governments in the management and protection of the site. You can learn more by reading the account “An Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Appraisal of a Piled Stone feature Complex in the Mountains of North Georgia” published in the journal Early Georgia (Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 29-50) in 2010 by archeologists Johannes Loubser and Douglas Frink.

 

 

Have You Heard of ARPA?

ARPA stands for the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and that’s exactly what it does. ARPA is the law of the land and applies to all federal public lands, including the national forests.

Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, information about the specific location of archaeological sites within the forest is exempt from public disclosure in order to protect fragile cultural resources (36 CFR296.18).  It’s against the law to dig up, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on public lands.  Severe criminal penalties exist for people who buy, sell, trade, transport or receive archaeological resources taken from public lands. Commercial filming and photography of the Track Rock Gap Stone Landscape are not permitted in order to protect the site under the authority of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. If someone wants to conduct research, they must get a written permit from the USDA Forest Service after it has consulted with other agencies and Tribes. Careful guidelines and restrictions must be in place before the research begins.

You have an important role to play in the preservation of these archaeological sites.  If you see or know of illegal activity, please contact one of our local offices.

Did Mayan people ever inhabit Track Rock Gap?

There is no archeological evidence of any link to Mayan people or culture at this site. There is no evidence for movements of large groups of people from the Maya region of Mexico to the Southeastern United States during this time period. It is quite possible that there were limited trade connections between the two regions, but there is no evidence for Mayan people settling anywhere in what is now the Southeastern United States.

 

Why does it matter who created the features at Track Rock Gap? 

It is important to study and honor the achievements of the people of the region, both past and present.  Making claims that people from somewhere else must have created anything complex denigrates and demeans those who were actually here and created these things.  Please consider the information we provide here to learn more about the actual residents of the region and their rich and fascinating legacies.

 

Does the Forest Service harvest timber at the Track Rock Gap archeological site?

Timber is not harvested at the archeological site.  At times, the Forest Service must mitigate unauthorized trails in the area in order to protect the archeological resources from vandalism and overuse and prevent unacceptable natural resource damage, including erosion.  Standard techniques for closure of unauthorized trails may include covering the trail with felled trees and other natural debris to both discourage use and disguise the presence of a trail.  Carefully selected damaged, diseased or dead trees and brush are commonly used.  In no way are the archeological resources at the site negatively impacted by these mitigation activities.

 





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