The 39 mile Murder Creek and 60 mile Double Murder gravel routes meander through pecan groves and past country churches on the rolling back roads of middle Georgia’s Jasper County. The start is less than an hour from downtown Atlanta but it feels a world apart.
This is country. Farming, fishing and Sunday services are ways of life. Periwinkle and chimneys mark where homes once stood. A passing cyclist is the most excitement many dogs have had in weeks. Food is fried. Everyone waves. The Murder Creek and Double Murder routes meander through this physical and cultural landscape but start less than an hour from the hustle of downtown Atlanta.
Both options start at Margery Lake in the Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center located a few minutes south of the small town of Mansfield. Both extend south into what is often called the Heart of Georgia and share the same roadways on the outbound and return legs.
First and last pedal stroke are on Murder Creek Church Rd. Murder Creek itself spans nearly the entire county and one can’t help but wonder how the creek got its name or why anyone in their right mind would name a church after it. Historian Larry Smith believes, “The truth of Murder Creek’s name is still unknown” but that hasn’t stopped the stories.
By night the Colonel and his men were settled in and out of sight and the scoundrels camped across the creek near the trading trail. As soon as the Colonel’s party went to sleep with their saddlebags, full of silver, under their heads and their guns against a tree, the wretches from the other side of the creek slipped in and seized all the guns and killed all of them, dividing the booty.http://themonticellonews.com/murder-creek-history-p5907-116.htm
A few kickers are scattered about but don’t expect sustained steep climbing on the short option. Terrain becomes genuinely hilly after mile 35 on the long option so expect more time in lower gears if you opt to ride long. Either way, riding in Middle Georgia is a nice change of pace for those who frequently find themselves grinding it out further north in the mountains. Here you can stretch your legs.
Gravel in the WMAs is almost always well groomed by the US Forest Service. Gravel maintained by the county can vary considerably, from smooth and fast to rough and washed out to fresh chunk. Jasper County leaves their road maintenance machines scattered about the countryside and evidence of their activity is clearly visible as one rides. Enough pavement is thrown in to take the edge off.
Finding store stops in this area can be a challenge so bring extra bottles or a hydration pack when it is hot. This is particularly true of the Double Murder route which lacks a store stop until mile 50. The good news is that the stop is impressive – very clean and featuring a Subway sandwich shop, grille, five kinds of coffee, fresh fruit, pickles and a large variety of drinks. Filtering water is always an option – few streams are crossed along the way and the Double Murder route passes the Ocmulgee River near mile 39. You may be tempted to try the Sack-O-Suds store made famous by the movie My Cousin Vinny but as of March 2020 it has seen better days and was closed. The location is on the map in case you want a photo.
Keep an eye out for wildlife on these routes. Fish can be seen jumping out of the many ponds and lakes on the last five miles of the routes. A pair of herons were nesting at Shepherds Pond during Spring 2020. Hawks soar above and you will hear critters scurry into the brush as you ride past. Many interesting old cemeteries dot the landscape including the final resting place of Civil War veteran William Walker Allen located at mile 7.2.
An 83 mile Triple Murder route, which ventures into the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is linked below but this route is not tested. Post a comment if you ride and let everyone know how it works out.
- Middle Georgia roads can be hot and very dusty in summer.
- Portions of both routes lack tree cover so don't forget sunscreen.
- Dogs are ubiquitous in the south. Consider pepper spray.
- Parking pro tip from contributor Olen: When driving in your GPS will lead you to the clubhouse on Elliot Trail. Don't park there! Elliot trail is gated and not always open. Your car might get locked in. Check out Olen's comments below.
- Do park at Margery Lake on Murder Creek Church Rd where the route starts. Some maps call it Boyle Murder Lake. There is plenty of room to spread out, a porta-potty near the fishing dock and parking is free.
- Camping is available near the start.
- The nearest town with full services is Covington which is located approximately 15 miles north of the route start along the I-20 corridor.
- One store stop is indicated on the map - mile 29 on the Murder Creek route and mile 50 on the Double Murder route.