Stumphouse Tunnel & Issaqueena Falls

Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Outdoors, Travel | 1 comment

This weekend, the wife and I decided to take a day trip to Walhalla and nearby Stumphouse Mountain Park, which includes Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls. Walhalla is a small town about 20 minutes south of Clemson on Highway 11, and the park is on the other side of the highway from Sumter National Forest.

Stumphouse Tunnel has an interesting story:

The tunnel was first proposed in 1835 by residents of Charleston, South Carolina as a new and shorter route for the Blue Ridge Railroad between Charleston and the Ohio river valley area which until then was only accessible by bypassing the mountains entirely to the South and then traveling up north through Georgia and middle Tennessee. In 1852, 13 miles of tunnel were proposed to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains through South Carolina, North Carolina, and into Tennessee. Construction on the railway was begun in the late 1850s and was successful through most of South Carolina until hitting the mountains around Wallhalla in Oconee County. There Stumphouse tunnel along with three other tunnels was to be built.

Construction on Stumphouse tunnel began in 1856 when the George Collyer Company of London brought many Irish workers into the area for this project. Many of the workers lived in housing on top of Stumphouse mountain called Tunnel Hill. By 1859, the State of South Carolina had spent over a million dollars on the tunnel and refused to spend any more on the project, therefore the tunnel work was abandoned.

The tunnel is pretty imposing, especially when you consider that it was excavated largely by hand:

There are all kinds of ghost stories associated with the tunnel. Most of them are contrived at best, but that didn’t stop me from reciting them all to my wife before we entered the crypt-like cavern. She didn’t seem to bite on the ghost stories, but she really got scared when I casually noted that there could very well be a wounded animal in there, frightened, and ready to lash out at any threat. She grabbed the flashlight with one hand and my arm with the other. We entered at our own risk:

After you get about 1600 feet in, the remaining tunnel is blocked by an old, rusted gate. Standing alone in the dank darkness, I was reminded of Poe’s Cask of Amontillado. This is the view from the inside:

There are supposed to be graves on the mountain above the tunnel, but we hiked all over the place and didn’t see any marker stones. After hiking back down, we wandered across the park to Issaqueena Falls. Here’s the story behind the name:

[The] falls were apparently named after an Indian girl who discovered her tribe planned to attack a nearby community of white settlers.

She quickly dashed away on her horse to warn the settlers of their peril. During her ride, she named the places she passed – such as Mile Creek, Six Mile, Twelve Mile, and Eighteen Mile – until she finally reached the threatened settlement now known as Ninety Six.

Learning of her betrayal, Issaqueena’s tribe chased her to the falls, where the young maiden pretended jump but hid behind the wall of water instead. Assuming she was dead, the tribe called off its search and Issaqueena was able to make her escape.

This is one of the few waterfalls we’ve visited where you see the falls from above. You hear the roaring water as you approach and there’s a viewing area off to the side where you can take in the falls:

If you look at the picture above, you can see the hidden ledge just below the top where the water falls straight down. We wanted to hike down to it, but it was too muddy. We’ll get a picture behind the water wall next time we’re in the area.

UPDATE: We finally went back to the falls and got some pictures from the hidden ledge.

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One Comment

  1. I have seen the area with what looks to be like headstones. Trees have grown but you can tell the stones were there first. Sunken in places. Looks like a grave area with at least 30+ headstones (stones).

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