the Depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains
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Tunnel Park is a fun Outdoor Park for all
ages. It is located 5 miles northwest of Walhalla SC on SC 28
(Highlands Highway). This park is run by the city of Walhalla and
well maintained. The entrance is gated and is typically open
10 am - 5 pm, 7 days a week. There is no fee to enter the park.
While in the area also visit Yellow
Branch Picnic Area and Waterfall.
One of the main features and popular destinations of the park is Stumphouse
Tunnel. This incomplete railroad tunnel was bored into the
Crystalline Bedrock of Stumphouse Mountain during the 1850s for the then anticipated route from
Charleston, SC seaport to the Tennessee
Valley. The tunnel and the railroad were never completed first
because funding fell short. Later the war between the states
(Civil War) interrupted plans to continue construction. More
Today the tunnel is accessible only by foot. It is a quarter
mile in length and flashlights are needed to venture to the
rocky dead end terminus. An air shaft provides some light about
half way to the end, but beyond the shaft the tunnel is pitch black with no
outside light. The tunnel dead ends at a
benched section. The tunnels were mined from both ends though the
western end today is submerged under Crystal Lake on private property
about a mile northwest of Tunnel Park. The two portions never met.
An interesting geologic feature at the entrance of the
Main tunnel can be seen by daylight. On both sides
of the entrance appears to be a parallel low angle
fracture in the crystalline bedrock. This could be a low angle thrust fault
which is not unusual for the area though no displacement,
which would classify it as a fault, was obvious upon
casual inspection. See pictures below highlighting fracture
location. The fracture can be followed on both
walls for several feet.
To access the tunnel, follow the paved road into the park
and bear left until it ends at a parking area (P2 on the map below). The tunnel is a short distance up a gravel drive beyond.
As you walk through the tunnel, look along the walls and roof
area. You will eventually see little bats.
They are about the size of small mice. In addition you may see a
frog. In September 2007 a frog about 4
inches in length was spotted near the end of the tunnel. In
the recent past a frog the size of a dinner plate has been reported in
the tunnel. All wildlife and natural features in the tunnel should
be left undisturbed to preserve this unique habitat and
environment. This includes defacing the interior with graffiti,
even if you are declaring your love for "Debbie". A card
and flowers would be more meaningful and will set you back about the
same about as a few cans of spray paint.
Another popular feature of the park is Issaqueena
Falls. The falls are located at parking area P1 as shown on the
map( Approximate GPS Coordinates 34º48'27.52"N
83º07'16.78"W ). Follow the creek from the parking area to the falls and
overlook. The best overlook of the falls is along a trail that
crosses to the right bank of the creek (as you face down stream).
Follow this trail approximately 200 feet to a recently constructed
Little known is the hike along the Blue Ridge Railroad
This trail follows the railroad grade approach to Stumphouse Tunnel and
includes two smaller tunnels, Middle Tunnel and Saddle Tunnel.
This trail was constructed by the Boy Scouts several years and as was
recently improved (as of Sept 2007).
Middle Tunnel is the closer tunnel and the only one of these two that can be
entered. Take note that hikers should enter at their own risk
since this tunnel is not maintained. The hike to middle tunnel is relatively short though quite varied in
The hike begins at the trail sign on the left bank just
above Issaqueena falls. This is not the trail that is along the edge of falls
but back safely about 100 feet and is clearly marked with a painted sign
(as of Sept 2007).
The trail is blazed yellow and ascends to
the railroad grade, approximately 200 feet.
Then the trail bears right and follows the grade of the former railroad.
Approximately 1/4 mile further it climbs up and over a small rocky notch and back down
to the railroad grade. Within a quarter mile a side
trail then veers off to the left toward a hillside where middle tunnel
is located. Watch for
the trail since it can be easily missed. The tunnel is just a
short ways up the left fork. It is marked with a sign.
The tunnel was back filled with dirt. However a small hole has
been dug that allows entry. The tunnel is relatively short in
distance and ends in a chamber that is mostly filled with water.
Look again for bats in this tunnel along the ceiling. Also note a
high angle fracture in the rocks overhead a short distance into the
tunnel. This could be a fault (due to rock movement) or just a
joint (due to overburden pressure release which is not uncommon near the
surface). Also look on the ceiling at the entry. In Sept 07
we observed hundreds of crickets.
To visit the third and furthest tunnel (Saddle Tunnel), return to the main trail
and continue along the
railroad grade for approximately another 1.7 miles. Within a 1/4
of a mile of the "South Middle Tunnel" sign,
there will be another sign for the "North Middle
Tunnel". We have not been able to locate the
north end of the middle tunnel and believe it to be filled
in and inaccessible.
About a mile later on the
left is a sign for "S. Saddle Tunnel." As
near as we could tell this sign is incorrect.
the main trail, you acend sharply for a short distance and come to a fork. Follow the right fork down
hill. Soon afterward you will approach at the bottom of a hill a
stone embankment on the right built up as part of railroad
fill. The stone used for the fill was quarried from
In more recent years
the rock has been mined from the fill for offsite use. Bear left at the rock
pile to continue to saddle tunnel. There will be several paths intersecting along the route
but best to follow the path most worn. Most of the intersecting
paths climb up the slope to the left though the correct path also forks
to the left upslope in a few locations bypassing areas where the grade
was not completed. This tunnel is
totally submerged in water with only the top of the entry way still
Return along the same route being
careful to follow the correct path.
In going to the saddle tunnel do
your best to follow the old railroad grade. From
that you should be able to decipher which forks to
take. Allow plenty of time for a few wrong turns.
A compass and topo map would be helpful in finding you