Track Rock Gap site: a new vision of petroglyphs

Submitted by James Wettstaed (Heritage Program Manager/Forest Archaeologist Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests)

Track Rock Gap (9UN3) is the location of a series of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, made by Native Americans in Union County, Georgia on soapstone boulders. A collection of boulders at this location contain over a hundred carvings of a wide range of figures. It is one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States and one of the few such sites located on public land in Georgia. Track Rock is located on the Blue Ridge Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

The earliest evidence for carvings at Track Rock date back at least 3600 years. These carvings were the result of Native Americans removing pieces of soapstone to make bowls. Most of the carvings visible at Track Rock are more recent. Our best understanding of the site is that the carvings were made by Native Americans during repeated visits over several hundred years beginning around AD 1000. The Cherokee have a number of accounts relating to Track Rock and the area appears to have been important to them. It is likely that they created at least some of the carvings.

Beginning in 2009, the Forest Service began a series of projects to better manage and interpret this significant site. Although it is one of the best known rock art sites in the region, it was never completely recorded or studied. One of the first tasks involved hiring Johannes Loubser to conduct a complete baseline recording of the site. The site had previously been protected by four metal grates installed over the boulders to keep people from removing or vandalizing the boulders (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Previous site protection strategy

Although this worked, it also made it hard to see the carvings. A single interpretive sign was located at the site. We totally redesigned the public access to the site, removed the grates, and installed several interpretive panels, and this work was completed in January 2011 (Figure 2).

Track_Rock_After

Figure 2: Current site protection strategy

As part of the new interpretation, a summary of Loubser’s research can be found on the newly updated Forest website. The website is designed to be viewed by visitors while they are actually at the site. We invite anyone interested to visit Track Rock Gap or the Forest website to learn more about this significant site.

Where to find it