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Atlanta, Georgia

Doll's Head Trail

Just a few miles from downtown Atlanta is a trail covered in a crazy collection of outsider art. 

Constitution Lakes Park is a nature preserve, but a distinctly urban one. At the site of an abandoned 19th century brick factory, it’s a birder haven, thriving wetlands and wildlife refuge. And cutting a path through it all is a short hike known as Doll’s Head Trail — created for and dedicated to found art.

When the South River Brick Company stopped digging up that famous Georgia clay to fire their bricks, the industrial site was left to be taken over by an encroaching natural world. The brickwork’s clay pits were so deep, when they filled in with rainwater it created a system of man-made ponds — now known as Constitution Lakes.

The brickyard shut down more than 50 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2003 that DeKalb County bought up the property and began constructing paved trails and boardwalks around the ponds, thereby creating a 125-acre preserve. And even though it’s only a few miles from downtown Atlanta, the preserve has attracted fauna not typically seen in such an urban environment.  

The Doll’s Head Trail was the work of a local carpenter named Joel Slaton, who envisioned an art project created from discarded doll parts and other trash that was scattered around the site. He encouraged visitors to contribute their own found art, and it’s been collecting there ever since. The pieces are dominated by doll heads, but also include bottle creations, collages, decorated chinks of old bricks, and beheaded doll & truck part tableaus.

The key to the collection is the idea that everything must being “found” — and that means found inside the Park itself. It’s repurposing at its finest — it cleans up the nature preserve while creating art. Bringing things in with you to leave on the trail is discouraged. Because, as the trailhead sign says, “litter makes the angels cry.”

Know Before You Go

The entrance to Constitution Lakes Park is near the east side of the intersection of Moreland Ave and South River Industrial Blvd SE. Follow trails and signs from the parking lot to access the Doll's Head Trail.

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