Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
The mountains of north Georgia only cover 9% of the states area, yet they contain a significant portion of our animal and plant diversity. Georgias mountains are ancient, formed from rocks between 200 million and one billion years old. The Rocky Mountains, Andes, and Himalayas are mere children in comparison. Geologic evidence suggests that the entire Appalachian chain has emerged and eroded several times, a slow but dramatic story of repeated continental collisions and mountain building followed by gradual erosion. Geologists estimate that between 5 and 10 miles of vertical rock have been eroded from the Appalachians and washed into the sea. Some of this material now forms the piedmont, coastal plain and barrier islands.
Forests have probably covered Georgias mountains for the last 2 million years. Trees provided organic material for soil production and root systems to stabilize that soil. Montane forests offer one of many examples of plants stabilizing and gradually altering their environment.
Variations in elevation, slope and aspect create changing temperature and moisture patterns that produce many distinct microclimates in mountainous regions. These microclimates dramatically increase habitat diversity, allowing for specialized plants and animals to become established in often quite local areas.
Typically rainfall increases in mountainous areas as air masses cool and release moisture as they rise and pass over mountains. For this reason you will often see clouds that seem perched on mountaintops, while the valleys are sunny.
As elevation increases the average temperature decreases. For every 6,000 feet of elevation gained, the climate changes as if one moved 1,000 miles north. A state like Georgia gains a much broader diversity of plants and animals because of the mountains, which house species that would otherwise live far to our north.
Georgias mountains can be divided into 3 distinct regions based on geologic history. These regions are the Cumberland Plateau of northwest Georgia, the Ridge and Valley province of north-central Georgia and the Blue Ridge province of northeast Georgia.
Mountain Sites to Visit:
Arrowhead Environmental Education Center in Rome, GA - (706) 295-6041
Smithgall-Woods Conservation Area in Helen, GA - (706) 878-3087
Elachee Nature Center in Gainesville, GA - (770)-535-1975