Lookout Mountain

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Lookout Mountain-High Point
A view of the apex of Lookout Mountain
Elevation 2,389 ft (728 m) NAVD 88[1]
Listing Highest point in Walker County[2]
High Point is located in Georgia (U.S. state)
High Point
High Point
Walker County, Georgia, U.S.A.
Range Cumberland Plateau
Coordinates 34°51′49″N 85°23′33″W / 34.863712778°N 85.392452703°W / 34.863712778; -85.392452703Coordinates: 34°51′49″N 85°23′33″W / 34.863712778°N 85.392452703°W / 34.863712778; -85.392452703[1]
Topo map USGS Durham

Lookout Mountain is a mountain ridge located at the northwest corner of the U.S. state of Georgia, the northeast corner of Alabama, and along the southern border of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain was the scene of the "Last Battle of the Cherokees" during the Nickajack Expedition, which took place in the 18th century, as well as the November 24, 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain during the American Civil War.


The name "Lookout Mountain" is said to have come from General Andrew Jackson's troops, but more likely comes from the Cherokee term for "two mountains looking at each other".[3]


Northern and eastern slopes and summit[edit]

Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain (to the southwest) make up a large portion of the southernmost end of the Cumberland Plateau. The area was lifted from an "ancient sea," and worn down by erosion for millions of years. The summit, called "High Point", is located just east of Thompsonville in Walker County, Georgia, with an elevation of 2,392 feet (729 m) above sea level. The foothills of the mountain extend into Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

A panoramic view from the top of Lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga, February 1864, by George N Barnard

The caves of Ruby Falls are on Lookout Mountain, and the rock formations of the "City of Rocks" (or Rock City) attraction are situated on the ridge. Nearby are Georgia's Cloudland Canyon and Cloudland Canyon State Park.

The area is home to the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, Covenant College, and a hang-gliding school. Lookout Mountain is one of the Chattanooga area's most visited tourist attractions. Civil War-related landmarks include "Point Park", operated by the National Park Service, and the Cravens House.

Southern and western slopes[edit]

The southwestern section of Lookout Mountain is in Alabama. The Little River, in Little River Canyon on the mountain, is the only river that begins and ends entirely on top of a mountain. The river flows over the DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park. The Noccalula Falls Park, featuring a pioneer village showcasing several nineteenth-century homes, is located at the southern terminus of Lookout Mountain, near Gadsden, Alabama. Local legend claims that the 90-foot falls' namesake, Noccalula, jumped to her death because she could not marry the man she loved.

White water sports and rock-climbing (offering views of the Coosa River Basin) are this area's key attractions.

Seven states[edit]

The marker at the summit of Lookout Mountain claims you can see seven states from the site.

From the "Rock City" point, it was once claimed that seven U.S. states could be seen: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. In reality, on very clear days, some mountains in the Knoxville area of Tennessee can be seen at a distance of about 100 miles; however, the curvature of the earth's surface lowers anything in Kentucky, South Carolina, or Virginia to below the horizon.[citation needed]


Native Americans and Lookout Mountain[edit]

A branch of Cherokee Native Americans lived in Chattanooga, the Chickamauga people. The Chickamauga called the mountain Chat-a-nu-ga; hence the name of the city. Research suggests the mountain was inhabited, although no physical evidence has been found. On top of the mountain, the pattern of boulders suggest lanes or walls were once there.[4]

Revolutionary War and aftermath[edit]

Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War, a battle, between the forces of John Sevier and those of Chief Dragging Canoe of the Chickamauga Cherokee, took place on Lookout Mountain. Archaeologist and ethno-historian, Raymond Evans, has asserted that such a battle could not have taken place.[5] However, a battle between Sevier's militia forces from the State of Franklin and those of Dragging Canoe did occur there in August 1788.[6]


Lookout Mountain, as viewed from Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

It was reported that on August 28, 1823, Daniel S. Butrick and William Chamberlain arrived at Lookout Mountain to perform missionary work.[citation needed]

After the Trail of Tears, land taken from the Indians was purchased by the highest bidder without a lottery of land parcels. This method of distributing land caused much of Lookout Mountain to be owned by a few wealthy Chattanooga families.[citation needed]

The aptly named Summertown, on top of the mountain, was barely accessible from a small rutted turnpike which had been built in 1852 by Col. James A. Whiteside. Whiteside, a native of Danville, Kentucky, owned a summer home which he converted into a hotel with several cottages. (Naturalists who visited the summit, such as Bradford Torrey, thought the cottages spoiled the environment and made it look like a cheap resort.) Whiteside had purchased much of the land on the mountain’s summit. Another wealthy Chattanoogan, Robert Cravens, had purchased most of the land on the side of the mountain. Cravens was also instrumental in developing the area, and moved into the house he built (the Cravens House) in 1855. Within a few years, about 25 families regularly summered on the mountain.

Civil War[edit]

On November 24, 1863 the Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought on the slopes of mountain. The majority of hand to hand combat took place near Cravens' house about halfway to the summit. Lookout Mountain’s shape and location can in some conditions cause a unique weather phenomenon in the area: after dawn, fog will sometimes descend from the cooler mountaintop and stop about halfway down. Such an event which took place the day of the battle and is the reason for its romanticized name, the "Battle Above the Clouds." The battle was won by Union forces, enabling them to lift the Confederate siege of Chattanooga.

Post Civil War[edit]

Yellow Fever Epidemic[edit]

When cases of Yellow fever began to increase in the United States, the Chattanooga population believed that the city was immune to any possibility of an epidemic because of its mountain climate. In 1878, the death of two individuals from the disease encouraged a widespread panic, causing an estimated 12,000 individuals to leave the city. A large percentage of this group went up the mountain, believing the climate would offer some protection against the disease. After the epidemic passed, many people complained about the inconvenient and complicated travel up the mountain, and the St. Elmo Turnpike (Ochs Highway) was created to help with future access to the mountain.[7] Early in the 1900s, Lookout Mountain was incorporated as a town.

Twentieth century tourist boom[edit]

Entrepreneurs began marketing their own attractions in the 1910s and 1920s. Instead of serving just as a resort area for the wealthy, rich businessmen settled permanently on the mountain. Garnet Carter, J. B. Pound, O. B. Andrews, and Leo Lambert were a few of the more successful entrepreneurs who created their own attractions. Instead of making their money off of the tourist's room, board, or transportation, the area's natural attractions were enhanced. Sites that had long been popular (such as the 'City of Rocks", Lookout Mountain Cave –closed to the public since 1935– and the "Lookout Mountain Incline Railway"), were bought, “highly developed”, and marketed. The popular "Ruby Falls Cavern" has been a tourism mainstay for 80 years. Today, tourist attractions include the following:

  • Rock City- has multiple different events that occur over the course of the year and rock trails. These rock trails include Lover's Leap, Balanced Rock and Fat Man's Squeeze.
  • Battle of Chattanooga Museum- The Museum offers insight of the Battle of Lookout Mountain through soldier figurines and topographical maps.
  • Ruby Falls—a tourists' guide to view the waterfall inside the mountain and Lookout Mountain Cave.
  • Incline Railway—the steepest railway in the world, going up lookout mountain from st. Elmo street.
  • Fairyland Caverns—underground cave which displays fairytale creatures and a castle.


  1. ^ a b "High Point 2 Reset". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ "Lookout Mountain-High Point, Georgia". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "Walker County". Calhoun Times. 1 September 2004. p. 110. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Story 14978416
  5. ^ Evans, Raymond E. (1980). "Was the Last Battle of the American Revolution Fought on Lookout Mountain?". Journal of Cherokee Studies 5 (1): 30–40. 
  6. ^ Evans, Raymond E. (Winter 1977). "Notable Persons in Cherokee History: Dragging Canoe". Journal of Cherokee Studies 2 (1): 176–189. 
  7. ^ Chattanooga Free

External links[edit]