Huge conservation project paves way to caving, hiking and more in North Georgia

  A perfect collision of forces — an anonymous donor looking for a tax write-off, a failed subdivision that turned out to be a $40 million mortgage-fraud scheme, and strategic purchases by conservationists to protect area caves — paved the way for one of the biggest nonprofit conservation projects in the region.

Nearly 2,400 acres on Lookout Mountain and into Johnson’s Crook in Dade County, Georgia, have been preserved and will be managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. as the new Charles B. Henson Preserve at Johnson’s Crook.

The conservancy is now seeking help from other groups in the area to turn the preserve into a major recreation and conservation area. They plan to add more than five miles of hiking with longer connecting trails going to other preserves in the area. They envision mountain biking trails, picnicking, camping, and most of all, caving.

The property has more than 30 known caves, and the conservancy believes there are closer to 40. It contains one of the highest concentrations of caves in the Southeast, according to SCCi.

The property immediately becomes one of the biggest private conservation projects in the region. If it were a state park, it would be one of the 10 biggest in Georgia.

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