Clear Creek, a modest rivulet flowing through Piedmont Heights, has significant roots in Atlanta’s history. In the early 1800s it was a large stream powering Benjamin Walker’s grist mill. But its steep banks, rushing waters, and the lack of a bridge made it virtually impassable in heavy rains.
The creek is fed by two main tributaries originating in the west. One, originating in Inman Park, was called Shermantown Branch for a while after the Civil War because the Union army had camped beside it. Running on through Springvale Park, this stream was dammed to form Lake Clara Meer for the 1895 Cotton States Exposition and was piped underground through Piedmont Park in the late 1990s. The second began in the northeastern part of Midtown near the intersection of Peachtree and Tenth streets.
These two are supplemented by other creeks along the way such as one drainingMorningside’s Orme Park which connects near Grady High School. Smaller branches and other natural water sources, such as Ponce de Leon Springs, add to the flow. During the recent northern expansion of Piedmont Park more such springs were discovered as the underbrush was cleared. Several feeder creeks flow through Piedmont Heights. Most were piped underground during the 1918 flu epidemic, but one can still be heard gurgling under the manhole covers down the middle of Rock Springs Road. Two others remain partially exposed here and there if one knows where to look.
Behind Ansley Mall, Clear Creek widens and slows to form a quiet pond where a colony of turtles can be seen cavorting. It then turns west under the BeltLine and into a concrete culvert through Ansley Golf Club on its way to Peachtree Creek at the western end of Armour Industrial Area. Soon, however, this little stream could become a major amenity for Piedmont Heights. BeltLine plans feature its course through the neighborhood as the “water gardens” proposed in the 2004 BeltLine “Emerald Necklace” study by noted landscape designer Alex Garvin.
This muddy ditch could soon be transformed into a wonderful neighborhood amenity as well as a “must see” feature along the BeltLine trail.