Weekend Travels: Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls

Who says “let’s go to Walhalla this weekend?” Apparently, my husband is on a quest to drive to every random spot in the Georgia and the Carolina’s. Which led to us driving to Walhalla, South Carolina one absolutely gorgeous Saturday. If you blink, you’ll miss the town. With the exception of a few fast food chain spots and a BBQ setup in a parking lot on the main street, there isn’t much too see.

Chris had read about the falls and a tunnel on the outskirts of town. There was a lot of traffic in the area. Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls are popular spots to visit and there was a steady stream of cars going in and out.

The history behind the tunnel’s construction was interesting to read. Basically, they brought in Irish workers to blast a tunnel through the mountains but the difficulty of the process combined with the Civil War ended the project.

Located about 7 miles northwest of Walhalla on Hyw 28, the 1,617 foot long Stumphouse Tunnel is an oddity. Started in 1852 to connect Charleston to Knoxville and eventually on to Cincinnati, the Civil War—and lack of funds—brought construction to a halt. While there were various efforts by the Blue Ridge Railroad to revive the tunnel, none of them came to pass and it stands today as a monument to the efforts of pre-Civil War engineering.

via OcconeeCounty.com

Once you read the plaques, it is a short walk up the hill to enter the mouth of the cave. Water drips from the ceiling and falls on your head as you walk to the fenced in back of the tunnel. You walk to the fence and then walk back out. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

The tunnel measures 17 feet wide by 25 feet high and about mid-way in, there is a 16 x 20 foot airshaft that extends 60 feet upwards to the surface, causing a consistent cool breeze to flow out of the tunnel, a welcome treat in mid-summer. It also produces condensation and the tunnel is usually wet.

After you exit you can walk up another hill and see a railroad car on a partial railway track. There is wooden frame for Instragram pics.

In 1951, Clemson University bought the tunnel and used it to cure the South’s first blue cheese. The tunnel’s environment was later duplicated at Clemson, and the cheese making, that Clemson is now famous for, was moved there. The tunnel still belongs to Clemson University, but it is managed by the city of Walhalla .

A short walk across the parking lot leads you to the head of the falls. The path splits and you can walk to the head of the falls or under a covered wooden bridge down a winding trail that takes you to a scenic viewing spot. More adventurous people descended down the side of the rock covered ravine to the bottom. Since I was wearing a pair of loafers, I decided to forgo that hike. (“Someone” didn’t tell me beforehand that we were venturing into nature hence the lack of appropriate footwear.)

Issaqueena Falls was stunning. There was virtually no hike to get to it and the falls were massive. Midway down the falls is an ever present rainbow in the mist. Beautiful.

Legend has it that the falls is named for an Indian maiden, Issaqueena, who warning the white settlers of an Indian attack, was then chased by Indians and she appeared to jump over the falls. 

By actually hiding behind the falls (or some legend-tellers say she hid behind a stump, hence Stumphouse Tunnel), she tricked her pursuers and survived.

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