During the 1-mile exploration, hikers explored two open-cut iron ore mines that were in operation until the early 1900s; when Red Top was home to many iron mining families.
“The interpretive theme for this month is explore Georgia’s history,” said Marcus Toft, a naturalist at Red Top Mountain State Park and the guide during the Iron Hill History Hike. “Part of Red Top’s history has to do with iron mining so we just wanted to take people out to the iron mine, tell them about the history, how it impacted the park and to point out some of the man-made features in the landscape that they may have totally bypassed before.”
The iron mines are not the only evidence that Red Top once was home to an iron ore mining community. Many of the hiking trails on Iron Hill Mine are roads miners used more than 100 years ago.
“One of the things I find most interesting about the park, especially at this time of year, is that we can still see a lot of the evidence from when people used to live here, when they used to mine here,” Toft said. “We can see some of the old road beds, we can see evidence of where some of the old house beds used to be, where they had their cellar, where they had their out-houses and that sort of thing.”
Some of the iron mined from Bartow County was used to make cannons and ammunition during the Civil War. Which, evidently, was one reason the mines were closed down.
“You’ve heard of Sherman’s March to the Sea. It came through this area and caused a lot of damage,” Toft said. “[Sherman] didn’t appreciate the fact that these mines and the furnaces associated with them were producing big guns that were killing his soldiers. So he pretty much put an end to the iron industry in Bartow County.”
Another reason iron mining in Bartow ended was due to the discovery of iron ore and mineral deposits in other parts of the country. They were closer to shipping and transportation lanes, making them much more profitable.
Although the two iron mines closed over 100 years ago, iron has played a big role in naming Red Top Mountain.
“Red Top got it’s name because the soil has such a high iron ore content that it gives it like a really red, rich hue which is basically the iron ore rusting in the soil,” Toft said.
About 50 years after the mines closed, the Army Core of Engineers began buying the property, built the Allatoona Dam and flooded the area. Until 1950, Toft said, Lake Allatoona did not exist.
Many houses and homesteads were lost during the flooding. The entire mining town of Etowah is under Lake Allatoona.
“We like to teach other people the history so they can appreciate the park more,” said Toft. “... while we’re happy people use [Red Top] just for recreation, we like that they know kind of how the park started and the history behind it.”
Future hiking events will be posted in the events calender of The Daily Tribune News and can also be found on georgiastateparks.org or on Facebook under Friends of Red Top Mountain.