Dawson Forest is a 10,130-acre (41.0 km2) public-use forest located in Dawson County, Georgia, southwest of Dawsonville. It is owned by the city of Atlanta, but is considered a state forest, as it is managed by the Georgia Forestry Commission.
It was purchased in 1971 from Lockheed, and was the previous site of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory (GNAL). The property is currently referred to as the Dawson Forest City of Atlanta Tract and managed by the Georgia Forestry Commission with a trail system open to the public. The tract is located approximately ten miles from the end of limited access on Georgia 400 in Cumming. An area of 3 acres (12,000 m2) previously occupied by GNAL was restricted following 1978 testing which found residual nuclear radiation from the experiments performed there. Subsequent studies in 1991 and 1997 found radiation levels to be at or slightly above normal background radiation levels. The property also encompasses Amicalola Creek, which various groups are lobbying to be designated as a scenic river, and which flows over Amicalola Falls within Amicalola Falls State Park.
It was intended and retained by the city as a potential site for Atlanta's second airport, however in late summer 2009 it was made known that part may be used for the Shoal Creek Reservoir, a reservoir that would send water mainly to the city of Atlanta system, at its water works in Sandy Springs. However, this 38-mile (61 km) pipeline would result in an interbasin transfer from the Etowah River to the Chattahoochee River, which is currently prohibited by the metro Atlanta water district, and would leave less water in Lake Allatoona. Additionally, Alabama has sued to stop nearly everything Georgia has tried to do with the upstream water supply, including the Hickory Log Creek reservoir. Without these lawsuits, it has been estimated that it could be permitted and built by 2013. The lake would be 2,000 acres (8.1 km2), leaving the remainder as forest.
In the 19th century, the forest was haunted by the spirit of a woman dressed in black. Anyone who managed to catch a glimpse of her soon lost a child, or in the event of not having children, the child of their closest relative would be lost. It was not until this woman's own son's body was removed from his swampy grave and properly laid to rest that she left the forest, but not before murdering the unfortunate soul who recovered her son's body.
- McClure, Nathan. "Dawson Forest City of Atlanta Tract – Then and Now". Etowah Scenic River Committee. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- Harrison, Jane (2004-07-22). "Midnight Rush - Adventure racers will traverse Dawson Forest". Gainesville Times. Retrieved 2007-10-12.[dead link]
- Public-private plan for reservoir has its supporters, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2009-09-06