The Eagles Nest
Walking up the carefully laid sandstone steps into the quarried amphitheater known as the Eagles Nest, one is surrounded by clues to its past. The battered remains of two concrete eagles stare from the corners above; a sunken ring of rocks in the center of the quarry seems at first to be some sort of altar. Clearly, there is a history to this place, a story waiting to be told.
The rock here was apparently quarried prior to 1920 in order to produce crushed stone for road construction, leaving an ugly scar in full view of the road up the mountain. But the real history of this place began soon after, when the Eagles Nest became the frontispiece to Adolph Ochs' dream of creating a Hanging Gardens on Lookout Mountain. While living in New York at that time, Ochs was the spiritual leader of the effort to landscape the area in and around the quarry, which was given the name "Memory Place" in honor of outstanding citizens of Chattanooga. Over $20,000 was spent in acquisition of property and landscaping.
In the center of the quarry was a pool filled with water lilies and plants, complete with a rock fountain fed by Anderson Spring. The eagles were placed on the upper corners of the quarry and vines planted to cover its bare walls; these and the surviving descendants of ornamental trees and plants can still be seen, including the English Ivy which now runs rampant. A Shakespeare garden with other statues was created just riverward of the quarry, and stone steps were built up from the road. Just past the quarry on the highway you may still see the distinct remains of five other sets of steps which once led into a landscaped terrace.
Ironically, the grand vision of what was to be "Memory Place" has faded from memory. Today the Eagles Nest is a popular spot for rappelling and rock climbing, but the names of those who were to be immortalized are all but forgotten. Vines and trees have reclaimed the quarry, leaving the casual visitor with only a mysterious but profound sense that something much more ambitious was once embodied here.
The Eagles Nest is visible on the left just down Scenic Highway from Ruby Falls. It is possible for one or two vehicles to park on the highway, where a trail leads into the bottom of the quarry. More spacious parking is available above the quarry by driving through the upper Ruby Falls parking lot to the far northern end. The area closes at sunset.
Two wide graveled hiking trails, both part of the old broad gauge railroad which passes through the Ruby Falls parking lot, lead off from this area: the Richard Hardy Trail up to the Cravens House and the Jo Conn Guild Trail down to St. Elmo.
Start Your Hike
From the parking lot above the Eagles Nest (or the Ruby Falls parking lot if the gate is closed) one can either go south towards St. Elmo, crossing Scenic Highway and through the lower Ruby Falls lot to reach the Guild Trail, or continue north around the nose of the mountain on the Upper Truck (Hardy) trail.
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