Exploring the Utterly Unique Rock Garden in Calhoun GA

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The Rock Garden in Calhoun, Georgia was intended to be a quick stop on our way home after spending several days in Cloudland Canyon State Park and James H Floyd State Park

We didn’t know much about the place, other than the fact that it was a quirky attraction, and it was located about 7 miles south of the New Echota Historic Site

We probably wouldn’t have gone out of our way to check it out, but it seemed like a cool little stop to end our vacation.

When we got to the Calhoun Rock Garden, we were totally blown away by the ingenuity of the folk art on display.

Nestled alongside a slow-moving creek, we found 50+ miniature castles, cathedrals, and other historic landmarks artfully cobbled together from small stones, cement, mosaic tiles, glass, and other bric-a-brac. 

What began as a mild curiosity quickly ranked alongside the Schoolbus Graveyard in Alto GA and Goats On The Roof in Clayton GA among our favorite free things to do in Georgia. 

Read on for our guide to the Rock Garden in Calhoun GA, including general info, driving directions, the history of the attraction, and a photo gallery of its most impressive elements. 

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Prayer & Contemplation Space at the Calhoun Rock Garden
Prayer/Contemplation Space

Info for The Rock Garden in Calhoun GA

ADDRESS: Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 1411 Rome Rd SW, Calhoun GA 30701

PHONE: 706-629-5470


OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://calhounsda.com/rock-garden

ADMISSION: Free (Donations Appreciated)


From intown Atlanta, head north on I-75 and go 63.2 miles to exit 310. Keep left to continue toward Union Grove Rd SE.

In 4 miles, take a slight left onto S Calhoun Bypass. Turn right onto Hwy 53 E and go 1 mile.

Make a U-turn at Liberty Rd SW. The Rock Garden is located behind the Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Park in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church parking lot.


From downtown Ellijay, take S Main St/Old Hwy 5 for 4.4 miles, then take the first exit on the traffic circle onto GA-382. Turn right onto GA-136 W and follow it for 10 miles, then turn right on GA 136-W.

Go 15.6 miles, then turn left onto GA-225 S. In about 7.3 miles you’ll make a slight left onto US-41 S, go 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Court St. 

In 0.3 miles it continues onto Oothcalooga St, and 0.9 miles that turns into the GA-53 Spur. Take that for 1.7 miles and merge onto Hwy 53 W. In just over a 1/2-mile, you’ll see the Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church on the right. Park in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church parking lot.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Ellijay GA & Gilmer County

Rock Garden Calhoun Creator DeWitt Boyd (a.k.a. Old Dog)
Rock Garden Creator DeWitt Boyd, by Mcneda via CC BY-SA 4.0

History of the Calhoun Rock Garden

Much like Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden in Summerville GA, the Calhoun Rock Garden is a visionary folk art masterpiece largely created by one man, DeWitt Boyd. 

Boyd, who prefers to be called Old Dog because he’s “a bit of a scoundrel” and building the garden keeps him out of trouble, started out making villages of tiny houses for his 8 children to play with. 

He used rocks, seashells, broken china, and other bits and bobs that caught his fancy. Each child had their own alter-ego porcelain figure to play with. Interestingly, Old Dog selected Genghis Khan as his own alter-ego. 

In 2007, after his kids had grown up, Boyd got permission from the Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church (where he was a member) to begin building a much larger village next to a stream at the back of the church property. 

The construction process, which uses cement and wire to reinforce the elaborate structures, is extremely slow and labor-intensive.

Castle Detail at Calhoun Rock Garden
Figures at Cinderella’s Castle

For example, his miniature version of the Notre Dame Cathedral took 27 months to build, and includes intricate details that practically insist visitors slow down and notice the little things.

Look closely and you may notice artfully arranged bits of mosaic tile and stained glass here, and a whimsical figurine of a samurai or kissing couple there. 

Over time Boyd’s children and grandchildren began to get involved, and the Rock Garden gradually grew to more than 50 miniature castles, cathedrals, and other historic landmarks from all around the world. 

As with the Schoolbus Graveyard and the Expedition Bigfoot Museum in Cherry Log GA, what began as one man’s hobby eventually grew into one of the most unique roadside attractions in North Georgia

And though Boyd got married and moved away from the state of Georgia a few years back, local volunteers continue to add new structures to the garden year after year. 

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Nature Trail at Calhoun Rock Garden
The Nature Trail at the Calhoun Rock Garden

Exploring the Calhoun Rock Garden 

Located right alongside a creek that connects Nelson Lake and the Oostanaula River, the garden is designed to be a quiet, contemplative place where visitors can get in touch with nature. 

There are shaded swings, benches, a gazebo (where weddings, including Boyd’s, are often held), and even a 1-mile nature trail that crosses over the creek and into the small forest behind the church. 

The attraction is especially beautiful in springtime, when the array of wildflowers and flowering shrubs give it the feel of a small botanical garden.

But we’d also love to visit in autumn, when the vivid fall colors in Georgia frame the miniature world wonders in crimson and gold. 

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting towns, villages, cathedrals, and other landmarks you’ll see when you visit the Rock Garden in Calhoun.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem at Calhoun Rock Garden
O Little Town of Bethlehem


The first structure you’ll see when you first enter the Rock Garden is named for the classic Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” 

It’s a massive piece depicting the Palestinian town, which is located south of Jerusalem in the West Bank and is the biblical birthplace of Jesus

The intricate detail of Old Dog’s construction is truly breathtaking, with blue-domed buildings, mosaic tile terraces, and countless windows in the rocks (some of which reveal figurines inside). 

Just behind the miniature version of this epic mountain town is a circular prayer garden made of rocks, with a large cross on the wall and chairs and benches inside for meditation and reflection. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Towns in Georgia to Visit

Japan’s Himeji Castle at Calhoun Rock Garden
Japan’s Himeji Castle


Although most of the historic landmarks depicted at the Rock Garden are of European origin, this sprawling masterpiece is Himeji Castle, a hilltop complex located in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered the finest example of early 17th century Japanese architecture, with 83 buildings designed for defense that date back to the beginning of the Shogun era. 

The artist’s attention to detail in this miniature is truly mind-boggling, from the epic size of the base of the structure to the intricacies of the multiple roof layers. 

Look closely and you’ll see a samurai warrior, prepared to defend his sacred home against any and all invaders!

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Notre Dame Cathedral at the Calhoun Rock Garden
Notre Dame Cathedral


Built long before the devastating 2019 fire that destroyed the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral’s roof and spire, DeWitt Boyd’s miniature version of the historic Paris attraction is truly jaw-dropping in its complexity. 

From the North and South bell towers to the stained glass of the West Rose window, Old Dog’s take on the famed French cathedral is nothing short of an architectural marvel.

The real thing, which survived World Wars I and II completely unscathed, is currently being rebuilt at a projected cost of over $1 billion (mostly funded by private donors), with officials promising it will reopen in 2024.

Until then, the Calhoun version of Notre Dame is a noteworthy landmark in its own right. 

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Roman Coliseum at the Rock Garden in Calhoun GA
The Roman Colosseum


I first fell in love with travel at the age of 11, when I went on a 3-week, 16-city tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir. I turned 12 in Rome, just a few days before we sang for Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. 

Getting blessed by the Pope is obviously my favorite memory from that life-changing trip.

But singing in the Roman Colosseum, the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire, was a close second.

So seeing Boyd’s remarkably faithful interpretation of the iconic Italian landmark brought back some wonderful memories of jubilant voices reverberating off of the ancient stone walls. 

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Nottingham Village at Calhoun Rock Garden
Nottingham Village


Not all of the Calhoun Rock Garden’s attractions are so iconic in scale. 

Old Dog obviously has an affection for the down-home charm of quaint little villages, as seen in this lovely interpretation of the historic village of Nottingham (which was made famous by the legend of Robin Hood). 

The English town’s roots date back to the 6th century, with Nottingham Castle built on a sandstone outcrop by the River Leen in 1068. 

Though DeWitt Boyd clearly has a knack for castle construction, here he focuses on smaller buildings instead, including farm houses, churches, and an inn

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One of the tallest structures at the Rock Garden, this massive miniature was inspired by Dover Castle in Kent, England.

The medieval British castle was constructed in the 11th century, and has been described as the “Key to England” due to its significance as a defensive stalwart throughout the country’s history.

Built by Old Dog and his wife, Lady Joyce, the castle’s central tower is nearly 6 feet tall, with a variety of spires all around the historic fortress. 

The opening is large enough for kids to fit inside, which makes this a great spot for family photos. 

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From small structures such as Martin Luther’s Monastery (which looks nothing like St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt, where Luther started) to larger ones like the Castle Of My Heart, the Rock Garden feels a bit higgledy-piggledy. 

Not all of the miniatures are based on real-life structures, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the approximately 1-acre area is laid out. 

But if anything, the lack of a unifying sense of organization only makes the attraction all the more impressive in its diversity and scope.

There are storybook castles that seemingly sprung straight from the artist’s imagination, a lighthouse that towers over the creek just before a series of small waterfalls, and the massive (and aptly-named) “Susan’s Bridge to Nowhere,” which was still under construction over the creek when we visited. 

It is a refreshing example of pure child-like creativity, with absolutely no thought of commercial appeal. 

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The City of Jerusalem at Calhoun Rock Garden
The City of Jerusalem


Although Old Dog and Lady Joyce have moved on, the Rock Garden in Calhoun GA remains a testament to their diligence and passion for creating this quirky North Georgia attraction.

The team of volunteers DeWitt Boyd took time to train before his departure continue to add to his visionary masterpiece, including this work-in-progress miniature of the city of Jerusalem. 

The unusual roadside attraction remains totally free to all visitors, though donations to fund the garden’s maintenance (including construction supplies and colorful flowers planted every spring) are appreciated. 

And while it may be located on the grounds of a church, you don’t have to be religious to be welcomed.

All you need is a healthy respect for the beauty of nature and imaginative creation. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.