One of the first things you’ll likely notice at Rocky Ford Landing is this abandoned railroad trestle. Damaged by an Ogeechee flood in 1902, it represents a tangible link to an era of South Georgia lumber barons who would do anything to distribute their product, even if it meant building their own railroads. A 10-mile “shortline”, it was constructed in the early 1890s by the E. E. Foy Lumber Company to connect his naval stores operations in Portal to the Central of Georgia line at Rocky Ford and was abandoned by 1905. The business was highly profitable but ultimately unsustainable. After extracting turpentine from the rich forests of the region, Foy cut the timber and sold off the property, but not before making a boomtown of Portal, still known today as the Turpentine City. A 1903 Statesboro News article noted: A quarter of a century ago, Bulloch was a great pine forest and majestic pines covered every hill and dale from the Ogeechee to the Canoochee. Enough pine timber was in the county to have built a modern New York…The turpentine men came first and the big and little trees were all boxed until today only a few tracks of virgin timber are standing and it looks like an oasis in a great desert. After the turpentine operations came the sawmill men and the standing timber was slain at an alarming rate, until now timber is a scarce article. The naval stores men are moving away to Alabama and Mississippi and the saw mills will soon have to follow them, yet it had its benefits in the way of opening hundreds of new farms and a great influx of population so that where the stately pines used to grow and sing their weird songs, cotton and corn now grow in wealth in their place.
It’s interesting to make a link to the history of the place while enjoying its natural charms. It’s a great spot to take a swim when the water is low enough and also a good put-in for a leisurely day of canoeing or kayaking.