I am flying through canopy of a west Georgia forest, at least a hundred feet off the ground. It’s completely serene except for the sound of the gear, sliding along the zip line.
The platform is coming up quickly. The guide on the platform waves me on, though, letting me know I am going fast enough to make the platform, but not too fast. I tuck in a little bit to pick up just a tad more speed. Why not, right?
The landing is easy and, just as easily, I am moving on to the next zip line. I turned to snap a shot of Bonnie coming in on the line I just finished. Normally, I would let her go first, but she forgot to bring shorts with a zippered pocket, meaning I am on photographer duty today.
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Historic Banning Mills
The folks at Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, GA, asked Bonnie and I to come by and experience their lodge and adventure resort.
Historic Banning Mills is the site of a 1840s era industrial complex. Built along the Snake Creek Gorge, at various times the area was home to a cotton mill, a paper mill, two wood pulp mills, two sawmills, three flour mills, two cotton gins, a shingle mill and a tannery. The mills used the fast-moving water from the creek to power their enterprises.
Now, it is the site of a conservancy and eco-lodge. A non-profit, Historic Banning Mills offers lodging, a restaurant with limited service, zip line and canopy adventures, RV and tent camping, retreat and group activities.
We arrived right at noon on Saturday to take advantage of the 12 miles of hiking trails Banning Mills offers, as well as to explore the some of the ruins of the mills.
Hike Along Snake Creek Gorge
Our hike took us along Snake Creek over mostly well-done trails. We even ran into a water snake or two. We also walked up by Two Springs Lake, where Bonnie got to cross her first suspension bridge of the day, a 200-foot bridge at the edge of the lake.
Our walk continued to the 151-foot adventure tower, which had a climbing wall built into the side, plus a seriously tall zip line, and made a point to check out the RV campground.
Historic Banning Mills is located about half an hour off Interstate 20 and would make a good stop for anyone looking to camp a bit outside Atlanta. We found the sites to be level with plenty of shade. While there were a few residents who were obviously there for a while, everything was clean and neat. The bathrooms were clean and functional if a bit spartan. We would use them if we had to, but probably not over our own shower in our travel trailer.
One of Bonnie’s “favorite” moments was crossing the 530-foot suspension bridge over the gorge. To say Bonnie is not a fan of bridges is an understatement. It does not matter what kind of bridge, Bonnie is not a fan.
The walk across this bridge is so worth it! The views are spectacular and being able to watch someone zip lining down their longest zip line is just too cool. Yes, there is some sway, but it is an easy walk.
After spending a couple of hours walking the trails and checking out the facility, it was time to check into our room. The folks at Historic Banning Mills were gracious enough to put us up in one of the treehouse rooms located right by the bridge we had just crossed.
The treehouse rooms are up in the air and you can only access them via a suspension bridge. With a king bed, a Jacuzzi tub for two and a nice back deck overlooking the gorge, we were set to relax before dinner.
These rooms are very comfy but do have some sway. It did not bother us in the slightest.
Dinner was served in the main lodge, which necessitated another trip across the suspension bridge, but by this time, Bonnie was cool(ish) with the walk across.
When we arrived, a group of Cub Scouts had run of the main dining room. They had their own buffet and were chowing down. Fortunately, just off the main dining area is a quiet spot just for folks having their gourmet dinners.
The dinner options were fantastic. Dinner is a price-fixed menu, with appetizers, a fresh garden salad, entrée and dessert, along with basic beverages, like tea, water or lemonade. You can purchase beer or wine by the bottle as well.
We opted to split a bottle of zinfandel which paired nicely with our meals. The appetizer was shrimp and grits bites, which were quite tasty. Bonnie had the delicious smoked pork chop and I had the chimichurri lamb. They cooked and seasoned the lamb excellently, but I have to say I was jealous of Bonnie’s pork chop. MMM!
Dessert was a chocolate peanut butter pie and tiramisu. While the pie was delicious, the tiramisu fell short. Perhaps it was because we had just had tiramisu in Italy, but it just didn’t quite have the flavor we were looking for.
Time to Relax!
After an excellent dinner, we retired to our room and the excellent Jacuzzi. We found some Tiny House Nation on FYI and let the bubbles melt away the stress of the last week of work. Tiny House Nation is one of our guilty pleasures which we don’t get to watch as much since we cut cable a while back. One cool feature: they mounted the TV on a swivel so we could position it where we could watch it from the bed or the tub!
Breakfast the next morning was a buffet affair with eggs, biscuits, bacon, sausage, scones and fresh fruit. I am willing to bet the Cub Scouts had just left when we arrived, as the buffet was pretty much empty. That said, the staff was attentive and began refilling the buffet shortly after we sat down.
After breakfast, it was time to fly!
Zip Line and Canopy Tour
We geared up and got our safety briefing, then headed out on the Flight Pattern Zip Line and Canopy Tour.
Our first event was a gentle sky bridge about 10 feet above the ground, which saw a small child opt out. From there, we went through a series of zip lines through the forest canopy.
If you have never taken a zip line, you really should. While it seems difficult and scary, it is really one of the safest adventure activities you can do.
Bonnie and I have been on a couple of zip lines before in Alaska and Belize. The folks at Historic Banning Mills really impressed us with how well they ran this course. In past experiences, we have had to clip in and out of safety cables. This course had a system which allowed the guests to remain clipped in the entire time. It did require a little bit of manipulation on the part of the guest, but after a few lines, it was easy to use.
The feeling… How to describe the feeling? It feels like you are flying. Yes, it gets the heart going a bit, but it is kinda like being a kid again and playing in your neighbor’s tree fort.
Once we completed the forest canopy zip lines, we moved on to level two, which started with a climb up a tower to take one of the longer zip lines in the park.
The best part of this zip line was getting to race Bonnie. We also did not have to worry about hitting the brakes at all. After a launch off the platform, we zipped across the Snake Creek Gorge going about a 1,000 feet before being able to walk into our stop. Regardless of who won (me), it was a lot of fun getting to go together.
Next, we headed back into the trees for more zip lines and another nine sky bridge walks. Finally, we took another nearly 1,000-foot zip line back across the gorge.
All told, we were in the skies about two hours on the Flight Pattern Zip Line Canopy Tour, which Historic Banning Mills markets as their level two course. They have several additional levels, adding more and more extreme zip lines, including the world’s longest, the Screaming Eagle. Don’t worry too much about making up your mind in advance. Provided there is room, the guides will allow you to upgrade while out on the course and you simply pay the difference when done.
A few things to note about your stay at Historic Banning Mills:
- We had very little in the way of cell service while we were at Historic Banning Mills. While the WiFi is free and we could occasionally connect from across the gorge, we spent most of the evening without a connection. This wasn’t a problem for us, but I know some folks could have an issue with it. You can get a decent connection, at least with AT&T, out by the front gate.
- The Snake Creek Gorge does separate the property for car traffic. You have to drive around to get to the other side. The suspension bridge and a footbridge down along the creek does connect the sides for foot traffic, though. Just make sure you are done with dinner before dark as they close the suspension bridge at that time.
- You must order dinner in advance. Make sure you get in touch with the front office before your stay to book your meal. That said, dinner was worth it!
- The accommodations are rustic in terms of furniture. They add a lot to the character of the rooms. Just don’t go in expecting fancy stuff. We really enjoyed the room and would certainly stay in a treehouse again.
All told, Historic Banning Mills is an interesting combination of facilities. It provides a great place to get away for the weekend, with lodge rooms, cabins and treehouse rooms, along with outstanding dining service if you want it. It’s a good place for a group retreat. Want some adventure? They have zip line tours ranging from a little over an hour to all day. The staff is friendly and easy to work with. There really is something for everyone here.
We are thankful Historic Banning Mills invited us to come out and experience this facility. They were gracious enough to host us and, while this trip was sponsored, all the opinions expressed remain our own. We really had a great time and if you have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to answer them.