Meet the Founders of the Conservancy
Thank you for visiting the web site for The Lodges at Banning Mills Retreat, Conservation Center in The Lost Gorge at Snake Creek. A Family built, Family run, self-supported State and Federally recognized 501c3 Conservancy enabling us to do a lot of good things.
We hope that you will take a few minutes to browse our web site and discover a little of the history and unique beauty of a Hidden Gorge at Snake Creek and the old Ghost Town of Banning Mills. And while you are browsing, don't forget to check out the adventure treks offered here including a once in a lifetime experience on part of the Longest & Largest continuous Eco zip line Canopy tour in the World.
We are often asked if our family inherited this site or the finances necessary to build Historic Banning Mills. The answer to both questions is no. Historic Banning Mills and all that is here, is the result of continuous, never ending, rewarding hard work and sacrifice of both our children, Christy, Beth, Michael, Tim and ourselves. We found the property in 1997 after finding a one time "land for sale" ad in the Atlanta Journal. And though the property had been fairly neglected for over 20 years and the grounds were very overgrown, it was decided that we would "take a chance". Actually, after deciding against it many times, Mike decided to take the chance and dragged me ( Donna) kicking and screaming from dream home next to the Kennesaw National Battlefield park. But it was'nt very long before the Unique Beauty of this place became Home.
It was the beginning of an amazing journey. A journey leaving an indelible mark on us, our four children and hopefully all who will come to visit here. We both sincerely believe that we were led to Banning Mills not only to eventually find out the history and begin to share it but also to make it a blessing to those who need a little peace and quiet and maybe challenge themselves to some awesome adventure!
We moved into the old clubhouse at Banning with the possums and raccoons! It definitely was in need of remodeling. Jeb Stuart, our Labrador, loved it. He thought he was in dog heaven .We absolutely had no idea of the history that was here or how pretty the land really was. Mike kept his job with American Airlines as a 777 pilot (Now Retired) and I retired from being an RN. We continued with our residential construction business. We tore things up and out and every which way.
We (yes, all of the family) cleared brush and over growth for 3 years and in the process discovered the old town roads, water raceways and ruins. We asked everyone we could about the history and if anyone had old photographs. It just seemed that everyone had forgotten about Banning Mills. Then we had a break. Professor Goodwin at, West Georgia University, had begun research on the area before he passed away. We were able to read his findings. It was a start. Then, I was able to find some pictures from one of our little neighbors, Ms Hazel Bowen and Everett Tolbert. More clues! The big break came when Doug Mabry, historian, came on board with us and began to help us research the whole town and gorge area. From the Creek Indian history right on through the industrial era, we have found out enough history to change the Georgia history books! We were even asked, by the Paper Making Museum at Georgia Tech University, to be placed as an official exhibit in their museum.
In 1998, we not only established the Country Inn and Bed and Breakfast but it was also the beginning of what is now called the Screaming Eagle Eco Zip line Canopy tours. With Mike's experience both in building and teaching life supporting Zip-line construction along with numerous demonstrations (including US Presidents and staff) as an Army Ranger, Special Ops. a High element Team building and Mountaineering facilitator for over 35 years, the SCREAMING EAGLE eco Adventure Tour just had to be built (a safari in the trees). The Lost Gorge at Snake Creek was the Perfect place to build it. We also added our Geo navigational treks (new team building opportunities), more land conservation Nature hiking trails through the gorge, an additional 220 acres with four lakes, a mile of rapids, senic historic vestas, RV center, more cottages, cabins, Tree house rooms, the last standing Cotton mill, and became a Two TIME Guinness World Record holder..
By 2006, we had grown from a 10 room bed and breakfast to a medium size country inn, retreat and adventure center. It really was like the movie "The Field of Dreams". "If you build it, they will come". Then at midnight on Thanksgiving Night of 2006, we had a fire that completely destroyed the main lodge, class rooms, storage buildings, all of our equipment & historic artifacts. We lost everything. It was devastating to us and there were so many inner questions, doubts and fears. The community was amazing. So many people came to us and said, "You have got to rebuild". "Banning Mills is special. You must not give up".
I think there comes a time in everyone's life that your core beliefs will be challenged. Do you really believe what you believe? Can you really stand on those core values in the hard times? We believe that God is always with us. That He leads us on this journey home and that we can trust Him with all that concerns us. So, we picked ourselves up and began to rebuild. And we did rebuild- with lots of prayers, encouragement and great people helping us.
Historic Banning Mills reopened in Oct. of 2007 after lots and lots of work. We are now in the middle of 1200 Forever Protected acres, have more history to share, more retreat venues for our groups and more awesome adventures to experience. We are still a work in progress and always will be. Out of the ashes has come new programs and opportunities for our guests (ministry thru adventure).
After more than a decade of almost around the clock work, scratching and scraping for every penny, weathering many a storm, a terrible fire (Thanksgiving 06) and a devastating flood in 09, we know that sometimes one has to walk through the valley to get to the mountain top. We have seen that "Weeping tarries for the night but joy comes in the morning". We give God the glory and thank Him for his faithfulness and for friends and neighbors that stood by us. We can't wait to see what the future holds. We hope that you may come to visit with us! Our staff, as well as our family, look forward to sharing our home and the beauty that God made at Snake Creek Gorge with you.
Mike, Donna Holder & Family
Historic Banning Mills, A Beautiful place - All Year Long..
Our mission here at Historic Banning Mills and Screaming Eagle Zipline Canopy Adventures is to help preserve God's creation by merging fun and exhilarating experiential adventure challenges with natural and historic educational opportunities.
We are here most everyday and welcome you to contact us at 770-834-9149 or send an email when you are ready to plan your weekend getaway, group event, family adventure vacation or corporate retreat. Historic Banning Mills is a non-profit retreat and conservation center. Banning Mills is a non smoking facility!