“Cascade Springs are situated six and one-half miles from the heart of Atlanta, on Cascade Road. Here nature has established one of the most attractive resorts in Georgia. Beautiful Cascades blend perfectly with rugged scenery, making the ensemble one of pleasing surroundings and refreshing coolness. The Cascade Springs Park and Camping Co. have done much to add to the general appearance of the place, and beg to announce to the public that they will find a most delightful place to spend a day, week, month or summer.” 1
In (or sometime around) 1916, Atlanta’s Cascade Springs was relatively simple to get to. Brochures listed driving directions for early motorists, spelling out street names that are still here (Cascade, Lee) and some that have long since been changed (Whitehall, Gordon). Auto Buses on the West End line made special trips to the springs at least seven times a day.
Today, Cascade Springs isn’t so easy to find. I live less than ten miles away from the place, but only came across it accidentally the other night when I was bored and randomly pulling up parks on Google Maps. Cascade Springs is a city park, though I couldn’t find an official website for it. Instead I found blog posts and book excerpts, but just a photo of that stone springhouse alone was enough to make me want to go and check it out for myself.
Reading about its Civil War history also made me want to take a trip to the springs. The Battle of Utoy Creek, fought in 1864, was a Confederate victory. Some of the fighting happened right under the falls, and a few trenches can still be seen in the hills above. Of course, the Federals ended up taking Atlanta anyhow, and so after the war and during Reconstruction the area was pretty much forgotten.
In the early 1900s, entrepreneur John Zaring bought up land around Utoy Creek in hopes to make some money. He went to work advertising the springs’ magical healing powers: “Anyone suffering from rheumatism, consiptation, indigestion, kidney and bowel troubles as well as insomnia, and nervousness should drink large quantities of Cascade Spring water.”2 Then he put a dance pavilion right below the falls and a big inn on one of the hills above it. Guests could stay at the inn or in furnished canvas bungalow tents, provided that they were “ladies and gentlemen” and could give character references. The inn’s restaurant served up “old-fashioned home cooking,” specializing in fried chicken dinners for 75 cents and afternoon tea for a quarter.
The resort didn’t last long: supposedly the inn closed down around the 1920s, and by the time the Great Depression hit Cascade Springs was mainly a daytrip picnic park, with a mini golf course and tennis court.3 Zaring’s family continued to sell their spring water up until the 1950s, and in the ’70s the city bought the land for use as a park.
Most of the resort’s buildings are gone now. There are a few ruins, including part of the inn’s foundation near the park entrance. The small stone springhouse looks just as it must have in the early 1900s, with its moss-covered outer walls and its charmingly off-kilter window. And then there are the falls. The dance pavilion is long-gone, and traffic noise from above now competes with the sound of rushing water, but the waterfall looks just as it does in old resort photos, and just as it must have during the Battle of Utoy Creek.