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Tunnel Park Issaqueena Waterfall
Walhalla SC

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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 tunnel history.

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 3448'27.52"N  8307'16.78"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 platform.

Little known is the hike along the Blue Ridge Railroad Trail.  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 terrain.

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.

Back on 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 the tunnels.

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 exposed.  

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 way.

  Stumphouse Tunnel Park Trail Profile 

Image of Stumphouse Tunnel Park - Picnic Area Trails Waterfalls Tunnels - Walhalla SC
Stumphouse Tunnel Park

Image of Inside Middle Tunnel, Stumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Middle Tunnel

Hiking Topo Map Boyscout Blue Ridge Rail-Road Trail Stumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Topo Map of Stumphouse Tunnel Park Area

Miles (appx) 1 (round trip to Middle Tunnel)
4.4 (round trip to Saddle Tunnel)
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Image of Low Angle Geologic Fracture in Crystalline Bedrock of Stumphouse Tunnel Walhalla SC
Red Highlights Parallel Low Angle Fracture both sides of Main Tunnel Entrance - Possible Fault?


Geologic Fracture Crystalline Bedrock Stumphouse Tunnel Walhalla SC
Fracture on Right Side of Entrance - Possible Low Angle Fault?


Image of Bat in Stumphouse Tunnel Walhalla SC


Image of Bats in Stumphouse Tunnel
Bats in Stumphouse Tunnel

Image of Frog in Interior of Stumphouse Tunnel
Frog in Tunnel

Image of Blue Ridge Railroad Trail
Blue Ridge Rail Road Trail with Yellow Blazes

Image of Middle Tunnel Exterior
Rocky Notch along trail to Middle Tunnel



Image of Issaqueena Falls Stumphouse Tunnel Park Blue Ridge Mountains Walhalla SC
Issaqueena Falls


Image from Stumphouse Tunnel Interior Walhalla SC
Stumphouse Tunnel


Rock In Stumphouse Tunnel
Rock Before Air Shaft - Cave In?


Image of Blue Ridge Rail-Road Hiking Trailhead Stumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Blue Ridge Rail-Road Trailhead

Middle Tunnel Fracture in Crystalline Bedrock
High Angle Fault or Joint Near Mid Tunnel Entrance

Image of Middle Tunnel Sign Blue-Ridge Railroad Hiking Trail Stumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Middle Tunnel Sign

Image of Bench Section at end of Stumphouse Tunnel
Stumphouse Tunnel End

Image of Middle Tunnel Exterior along Blue-Ridge Railroad Boyscout Hiking Trail Walhalla SC
Middle Tunnel


Image of Blue Ridge Railroad Hiking Trail Rock Embankment Stumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Rock Pile Remains of RR Embankment


Image of Saddle Tunnel along Boyscout Blue Ridge Rail-Road Hiking Trail Sumphouse Tunnel Park Walhalla SC
Saddle Tunnel (mostly submerged)

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rev 09/2007