by Matt Neal [Originally posted at The Patch as The Lost Towne Laker]
Location: Woodstock, Georgia
“Daddy? What did they make at the rope mill?”
“Well, I don’t know, sweetie. That was in the olden days. It’s a mystery we may never know.”
She gave me a puzzled look, then turned to our faithful guide, Bwana.
“They made rope, honey,” Bwana told her. “That’s why they called it the Rope Mill.”
We were standing at the Olde Rope Mille Parke on the banks of the Little River. Hikers and bikers are familiar with this place. And to my eye, fly-fishermen should be also, though I didn’t see any.
I happened to stumble upon this park once before, as I tried to find my way to the freeway. However, something was different this time. If you haven’t been to the Olde Rope Mille Parke in a while, I suggest you jump in your car and drive down here right now. I’m waiting here to show you what I found. You’ll never guess what it is.
You’ve got the Rope Mill Interchange, the new sidewalks on Main Street, my neighbor’s new deck, and the upcoming amphitheater. I can’t keep track of all the changes.
As a displaced Atlantan who has used Towne Lake as my bedroom community for years, I find it interesting to explore the wilds of Woodstock and discover its many secrets. My faithful guide, Bwana, was already familiar with this park.
However, I have a secret ambition I can now fulfill. Since I first heard of it, I have wanted to get to the other side of the river so I could explore the old mill site. Come with me now as I cross over and investigate.
First, we cross the bridge. It’s a pedestrian bridge, linking the Olde Rope Mille Parke with a footpath on the other side. Many years ago there was another bridge here. This new bridge is actually built on the cement posts of the old bridge. No one knows when the first bridge was built, but it was here in 1917. Then, around 1958 it was replaced by a second bridge. But by 1985 that second bridge was shut down and was removed in 1996.
Since then, the north side of the river has been cut off from humanity. I expect to find tribes of humans trapped here that have reverted to a feral state and will keep you posted as I flush them out.
After crossing the bridge I found a well used path giving access to the north side of the river. So my feral humans have escaped. No matter, the secret, ancient, hidden remains of Ye Olde Mille site are still awaiting me. We took a sharp right onto another path that follows the north side of the river. I had my two little children with me and soon discovered this path is not safe for kids. We were about to turn back when I spotted it!
The ruins of the Olde Rope Mille. So the legends are true.
Oh, so carefully, I climbed down and stood on a rather dangerous looking structure. It was a 10 foot drop to the cement floor below, and my 6-year-old son was eager to follow me. This thrilled my wife to no end, and she told me so.
Disregarding her warnings, I scurried down to the river bank. And what do you know? There appeared to be a narrow, man-made passage between the shore and a small island. I questioned the natives about this, and found this was how water was funneled to the mill’s water wheels. I later discovered some pictures of native kayakers making their runs through this narrow channel, apparently as part of some ancient ritual to bring a bountiful catch of fish.
Legend has it the old mill site contained a number of buildings. The forest has long since swallowed up the remains of most of these. At one time there were seven houses where the 20-30 mill workers lived. But since the mill closed in 1949, the land has slowly reclaimed all that was left of the mill and the surrounding buildings.
We spent another hour exploring the path along the south side of the river. This is a great place for both hikers and bikers. There is an old legend that if you walk far enough along the path, you will come across either another bridge or some way to cross the river, allowing you to make a complete loop. However, we may never know if it's true since I was too tired to go that far.
By mid-afternoon it was too hot so we decided to leave. I'm glad we visited Ye Olde Rope Mille Parke, and am happy I fulfilled my secret ambition. The bad news is my wife now thinks we should get bikes and come here often for exercise. Things have taken an ominous turn.