This weekend we traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to hike the Rail Ridge Trail at Constitution Lakes which includes a loop named the Doll’s Head Trail. This trail is known for its creepy art made from doll parts that wash up when the South River floods.
We arrived on a cloudy, cool day in Fall. We began our hike taking the trail toward the north side of the lakes. Before getting to the Doll’s Head portion of the trail, we took a boardwalk spur that overlooks the lake. A bit further down the Rail Ridge Trail we came to Doll’s Head Trail.
Upon entering it really was a little creepy – but creepy things intrigue me! It is almost as if you have walked into a different park. The arriving trail is very clear, and feels much like other nature trails. Then BOOM – you’re in the middle of a funky little spot in the woods!
We wandered around the trail and looked at all the found art. Some with names, some without, some just piles of interesting… trash. We came across what is left of what was once the tallest willow oak inside the Perimeter. As the sign below says: notice that it grew out of a pile of bricks! Unfortunately, the tree was split in the summer of 2015, and we were not able to see it in all it’s glory.
When we finished admiring the art, we returned to the Rail Ridge Trail to complete the loop around the lake. The first part of the trail from the area we emerged (hang a left at the bowling pin sign) is a boardwalk. While walking along the boardwalk, a huge flock of Canada Geese were having conversations and enjoying the water. I had never seen that many at once!
The rest of the trail was a nice walk through the rest of the preserve with one last stop just before reaching the parking lot: The Sweetwater Groak. A sweetgum tree and a water oak tree that have grown together at the base of each trunk. These are a must see when at this park, and a sign points the way. (How embarrassing, my phone ran out of space and I couldn’t take a photo!)
I highly recommend seeing this trail! It has a little bit of something for everyone, and it is worth the traffic getting there (I guess that statement is relative!). The walk is an easy one and is partially handicapped-accessible – getting to the Doll’s Head portion may be difficult for some with special mobility needs.
If you travel to (or live in) Atlanta, we recommend hiking this very easy trail at least once. The Constitution Lakes Recreation Area located just inside The Perimeter (Interstate 285) at Moreland Avenue and South River Industrial Boulevard SE . When using Google Maps or any navigation device or app, make sure to navigate to Constitution Lakes, or else you’ll end up on a dead end residential street with no parking in sight. **Please be respectful of the residents and do not park in driveways or on the side of the road if you end up in the aforementioned residential area.**
A Short, Paraphrased History
Though indigenous people inhabited this area over 3000 years ago, evidence in the Constitution Lakes area was likely destroyed during the 1800’s due to working of the land. The lakes were formed from such activity. The area was mined for red clay by the South River Brick Company. Evidence of this company is present in the form of discarded brick that is lying everywhere near and on the Doll’s Head Trail. Visitors find these bricks and often draw or write on them and place them with others or use them as name plates for the found art pieces. You’ll also find discarded brick pieces from when trains would bring them and other refuse to dump in the area in the past.
DeKalb County purchased the land in 2003 and built it into a park with the help of many community members, including Joel Slaton who creates a lot of the art on the trail.
For more history regarding this area, please check out History Atlanta’s page written by Conor Lee. History Atlanta has done the legwork to find and compile the articles and other writings to inform us about this very interesting nature preserve.
Have you been to Constitution Lakes Park? Leave us a comment telling us what you think!