Hidden Gems at Georgia State Parks
Familiar with Friends of Georgia State Parks? They are partners of the parks and historic sites that help coordinate volunteer efforts to promote and preserve the state park system. Well, I just got an email from them explaining a really exciting series of events happening in 2016!
Most of the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites have identified their “hidden gems” – those special attributes, trails or unusual elements that make them special. Some of these are available for anyone to see them (as long as you know what to look for) and others are only available through guided walks at certain times of the year.
Below is a list of the hidden gems for each park, as well as a link to the special “Hidden Gem” events happening throughout the year.
Panola Mountain (Stockbridge) Cultural History
Guided Fireworks Hike on July 2, 2016; Sleep in the Trees on Sept 10, 2016; Turkey Trek on Nov 19, 2016
You may have heard about Panola Mountain’s unique ecology, but are you ready to discover some of the mountain’s lesser-known history? Join our expert guide to head off trail and explore Panola’s hidden cemeteries, whiskey stills, farming history and more.
Hike to a lovely, small lake in a beautiful yet rugged section of the park.
Mid-19th Century Homestead
Take a strenuous hike through a beautiful area to the oldest homestead in the park, dating back to before New Manchester Mill operated (1849-1864).
Alexander’s Mill Ruins
Enjoy a moderately strenuous hike downstream along Sweetwater Creek to the ruins of Alexander’s Mill.
Hike along part of the four miles of riverside property along the Chattahoochee River.
Beaver Creek, Spillway Area, Upstream Sweetwater Creek
This hike will visit the lovely confluence of Beaver Creek and Sweetwater Creek and explore upstream on foot.
Land of the Big Birds
Visit by foot and kayak an area that is home to Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles and Ospreys,
New Perspective on a Class IV+ Rapid
This strenuous hike will visit the largest of the Sweetwater Creek rapids by hiking the east ridge and then dropping down to the magnificent whitewater.
The “Old Tanyard”
This hike will visit the “Old Tanyard” located in a very seldom visited area.
Sparks Reservoir Earthen Dam and Surrounding Area
Kayak and hike around the Sparks Reservoir earthen dam and explore the beautiful area between the dam and Sweetwater Creek.
Angus Ferguson House and Mill Ruins
This hike will visit the area where beloved “Angus Ferguson” lived for more than 50 years in the 19th century.
Green Building Tour of the Visitor’s Center/Museum
This park’s Visitor’s Center/Museum is one of the “greenest” buildings in the country. This tour will focus on what makes this a LEED-Platinum building and will also reveal little-known secrets about some exhibits.
New Manchester “Behind the Scenes”
This tour will focus on the daily life of New Manchester (1849-1864) residents visiting old homesites, wells, etc.
Chattahoochee Bend (Newnan) Eagle Watch
This is a rare opportunity to see a remarkable bald eagle nest. A ranger will lead a short hike off trail to the viewing area, providing telescopes and binoculars for a closer look.
Hard Labor Creek (Rutledge) CCC Camp SP8
Discover the remaining structures of one of two Civilian Conservation Corps camps that operated here in the 1930s.
Cloudland Canyon (Rising Fawn)
Guided Hike on May 14, 2016
Trek along Cloudland Canyon State Park’s least used hiking trail, dubbed “Can’t Hardly,” and discover its hidden natural gems on this morning hike. You’ll pass by dense stands of mountain laurel in bloom, rocky streambeds, and more.
Red Top Mountain (Acworth) Iron Hill Trail
Guided Hike May 14 and Nov 19, 2016
Iron Hill has a rich history, much of which is unknown to the public. Until now, the trail that leads to the center of the old Iron Mine has been undisclosed and not well known to the public. This is a rare opportunity to see what remains of the once-booming iron industry, and stand inside the mouth of the mine. The area has many untold stories. Search for signs of the eleven different iron furnaces, old home sites, and the old campground. See areas of shifting fault lines, find treasures along the lake shore. This is not a hike to be missed!
Dahlonega Gold Museum (Dahlonega) Gold in Bricks
See locally made bricks of the building that contain trace amounts of gold.
Hardman Farm (Sautee) Magneto Phone
The phone, displayed in the dining room, reveals the use of the Hardman House from 1927–1931 when it was Gov. Hardman’s summer mansion and he had to be reached from Atlanta.
Traveler’s Rest (Toccoa) Post Office & Gold
Guided Tour on Sept 10, 2016
Take a ranger-led tour to dscover the old post office and hidden compartment where Mr. Jarrett used to hide his gold.
Unicoi (Helen) Quartz and Mica on the Lake Trail
Unicoi State Park rests on a fault line. Take a guided hike to explore the Lake Trail where a large formation containing mica (fool’s gold) and quartz can be seen, showing the fault line.
Victoria Bryant (Royston) Beaver Pond Overlook
The Beaver Pond Overlook sits on the edge of a small pond just off the Broad River Loop Trail. This pond serves as a perfect habitat for numerous species including beaver, ducks and heron, as well as numerous amphibians and reptiles.
Learn about local author Byron Herbet Reese, whose actual homestead is now where Vogel’s Lake Trahlyta was created.
Moccasin Creek (Clarkesville) Old CCC Camp
Explore an old 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps camp located within walking distance of the park.
Don Carter (Gainesville) Lady Slippers
Take a hike with a ranger to look for Pink Lady Slippers and talk out about their role in the forest, as well as their traditional uses.
Elijah Clark (Lincolnton) Elijah Clark
Who was Elijah Clark and what was his role in Georgia history? Learn about Clark’s role in keeping Georgia part of the U.S., his battles, and homelife, including tours of his reconstructed house and gravesite.
Etowah Indian Mounds (Cartersville) Perimeter Trail
The perimeter trail offers a true sense of how big the Native American Village was and allows guests a perspective of the mounds which become more noticeable from different angles. The ancient mounds are not just square or rectangle, but much more complicated and well planned.
Fort Mountain (Chatsworth) Scenic Overlook & Hidden Waterfall Hike
Guided Hike on Mar 12, 2016
Hike along the 301 Mountain Bike Trail to see a beautiful view of the Cohutta Mountains and western valley. The overlook was naturally formed by high winds from a storm system. Then, access a hidden waterfall by hiking the 301 Mountain Bike Trail to the 407 Horse Trail. This strenuous hike is approximately 6 miles.
Ft. Yargo (Winder) Turtle Creek Bike Trail
Experience the art of riding Fort Yargo’s bike trails with a naturalist-led 1-mile ride on the Turtle Creek Bike Trail.
James H Floyd (Summerville) Mining Industry History
Take a ranger-led hike to the Marble Mine and learn about the mining operation that used to call this area home.
Richard B. Russell (Elberton) Forgotten History
Our popular disc golf course is home to ruins of past homesteads that visitors easily overlook. A natualist-led hike will replay how families lived in the 19th century. A demonstration garden is also planned for the site.
Watson Mill Bridge (Comer) Power House Ruins
See how power was generated at the turn of the century.
Rocky Mountain Fishing Area (Rome) Pump Storage Power Plant
Take a hike to the lower overlook to learn how a pump storage hydorelectric plant operates.
A series of 12 hidden gems events will will take place at Tallulah Gorge in 2016. Each month will offer a unique event ranging from easy hikes to strenuous ones to paddling on a lake. Please sign up in advance for the events.
People hike the paved part of the old railroad bed all the time, but few people hike the unpaved part of the trail. This trek will take visitors on the unpaved part out to Highway 441.
Very few people use the trail that goes past the old jail house. This trail has lots of wildflowers and other interesting plants and history.
Take a ranger-led hike to see the Persistent Trillium, an endangered species.
This will be a strenuous hike that includes getting on rope to access part of the old trail system that went through the “Needle’s Eye.”
Few people get the opportunity to paddle this remote lake.
Gorge Floor Cave
The gorge floor has a small cave that is easily missed unless you know where to look.
Tallulah Lake Waterfalls
There are two waterfalls coming into Tallulah lake that can be found by boat. This paddle will give guests the opportunity to see those waterfalls.
The Witch’s Head is a rock formation off the beaten trail and can only be accessed by a guided hike.
North Rim of the Gorge
Go off the beaten trail to see beautiful views of the gorge that few people know about.
Dam, Power House & Cable Car
This is a very strenuous hike going across the dam and hiking on the gorge floor to the power plant where guests get to ride out the cable car.
This hike to Tallulah Lake features a rock where many vacationers’ photos were taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Secret Sunset Spot
We’ll show visitors the best spot in the park to watch sunset.
Tugaloo (Lavonia) Tugaloo’s Moonshine
Guided Hike on May 28, 2016
Guests will learn about the life of early settlers who once lived at what is now Tugaloo State Park. Hike near unique remnants of old moonshine stills and see evidence of an old homeplace in the park.
New Echota (Calhoun) New Town Creek Trail & Cherokee Research Library
April 30 Guided Hike
Experience the “natural side” of New Echota with a hike along the Beaver Pond Trail and New Town Creek Trail — great for birding, walking or running. Also, check out the Cherokee Research Library for history and genealogy.
Amicalola Falls (Dawsonville) Moonshine Truck
Find the blue tanker truck that is a reminder of the Prohibition Era moonshine runners. It is “hidden” along the trail leading to the beautiful cascading waterfall. While drivers were racing to get away from the “Revenuers,” the truck slipped 200 feet down the steep incline to rest against a stand of Poplar trees. There was no way to pull the truck from its position, so there it has remained for well over a half-century.
Black Rock Mountain (Mountain City) Greasy Creek Falls
Discover a beautiful waterfall not listed on the park’s trail map.
Chief Vann House (Chatsworth) Burn on the Staircase & Fall into Quilts
Guests can see the scar that occurred when the Georgia militia tried to smoke Cherokee Indian Joseph Vann from his home in 1835. In October and November, see the oldest known slave-made quilt in Georgia.
Smithgall Woods (Helen) Honey Bee Hives (Apiaries)
Most guests hike our nearby Visitor Center Trail along Dukes Creek or into the woods and hills along the Laurel Ridge Trail. However, by hiking a little further along Tsalaki Trail, guests may see a working apiary. Honey from these beehives is also for sale inside the Visitor Center.
Middle and South Georgia
AH Stephens (Crawfordville) CCC Fire/Water Tower
Re-enactment of arrest on May 14, 2016
Coming soon, pending 2016 renovation. Explore the Civilian Conservation Corps Tower and learn about its history and the role it played in protecting the local counties.
Ga Veterans (Cordele) B-29 Superfortress Plane
The Boeing B-29A Superfortress was flown primarily by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War II and very advanced for its time. The B-29 production total was 3,970 aircraft. Only 22 B-29s are preserved at museums worldwide and Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park is proud to feature one.
Providence Canyon (Lumpkin) Providence Language
This unusual park lies on marine sediments with loamy sand topsoils. Nankin, cowarts, mobila and orangeburg are the most prominent soils specific to Coastal Plains. Join a naturalist-led hike to learn about our unique geography.
Roosevelt’s Little White House (Warm Springs) The Mayflower
President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked model ships. See a small replica of the Mayflower in his den, carved from the original ship’s timber which sailed in 1620.
SAM Shortline (Cordele) Thronateeska River
Ride the train as it crosses a tressle over Lake Blackshear, formed by the damming the Flint River. This was called “Thronateeska” by the Creek Indians more than 300 years ago.
Hamburg (Mitchell) 1920s Grist Mill
Join a ranger-led tour of the grist mill where you’ll learn about its operation and role in local commerce.
High Falls (Jackson) Rocks of High Falls
Travel back in time with published geologist Bill Witherspoon and learn about the unique rock features that can be found only at High Falls State Park.
Indian Springs (Flovilla) Oldest State Park in Georgia
Hear a brief history of the Georgia State Park system focusing on the creation and evolution of Indian Springs State Park, thought to be one of the oldest state parks in the nation.
Jarrell Plantation (Juliete) Jarrell 1920 House
The 1920 house is still owned by the Jarrell family, who have since converted the 10-bedroom house into a bed and breakfast. Everyday site visitors are only able to see the outside of the house, so this will be an exclusive opportunity to tour the inside as well as meet the descendants of Benjamin Richard Jarrell.
George L. Smith (Twin City) Gopher Tortoise Habitat
Find excellent examples of gopher tortoise habitat and see the effects of prescribed burning for habitat enhancement. The burrowing gopher tortoise is Georgia’s state reptile.
Mistletoe (Appling) Silky Camellia
Use geocaching skills to locate the Silky Camellia and other attractions along the Cliatt Creek Trail.
FDR (Pine Mountain) CCC Liberty Bell Pool
Guided Hidden Rock Treasures on June 11 & 18, July 9 & 16, 2016
This unique, 533,000-gallon, Civilian Conservation Corp-built pool is fed by nearby Kings Gap Spring. Guests can swim, visit with local historians, and search for hidden clues within the rocks.
Florence Marina (Omaha) City of Florence
What does an English port, newspaper and natural disaster have in common? Florence Marina State Park invites you to join our City of Florence guided hike to find out.
General Coffee (Nicholls) Sherdly Noticeable
Use a set of clues posted on the park’s Facebook page to find hidden, hand-made by rangers, one-of-a-kind pottery pieces hidden throughout the park. One piece will be hidden each week in June and July 2016, possibly August as well. Pottery designs will showcase the Native American history of the area.
Little Ocmulgee (Helena) Boardwalk to Cyprus Swamp
See waterfowl and alligators.
Magnolia Springs (Millen) Lime Sinks off Lime Sink Trail
Join a ranger to go “off trail” to get closer to the sinkholes located off of the Lime Sink Trail.
Reed Bingham (Adel) Vulture Venues
Guests will be taken to an area of our Little River Trail where they can sometimes see more than 100 vultures.
Seminole (Donalsonville) Old Hunting & Fishing Camp
Walk through the ruins of an old hunting and fishing camp.
Crooked River (St Mary’s) Shell Middens; Rare Plants & Fungus
Walk the low-country Sempervirens Trail to learn about shell middens and their unique ecosystem where guests can find rare plants and fungus.
Fort King George (Darien) Spanish Mission Property
Explore recently acquired neighboring property thought to be where part of the 1575 Spanish Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje once stood.
Fort Morris (Midway) Scenic Vista of St. Catherine’s Sound
Memorial Day Commemoration on May 30, 2016
Hike around the fort to a grand vista over the River Medway to St. Catherine’s Sound. This scenic coastal spot is a view that has seen little change in hundreds of years.
Fort McAllister (Richmond Hill) Freshwater Sloughs
Mar 19 Guided Hike
Enjoy a hike to fantastic freshwater sloughs (swamps) that dot the maritime forests.
Laura Walker (Waycross) Cattle Egret Rookery
Discover where the cattle egret builds its nest and raises its young.
Skidaway Island (Savannah) Living Shoreline
Hike along the Sandpiper Trail and learn how the NOAA’s Living Shoreline project helps our ecosystem.
Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation (Brunswick) Old Rice Fields
Discover how today’s marshland was once the highly cultivated basis of a coastal agricultural empire.
Gordonia-Alatamaha (Reidsville) Pitcher Plant Bog Habitat
Did you know some plants eat bugs? Take guided tours to see an endangered plant species and pitcher plant bog. Spring and early summer are best times to view carnivorous pitcher plants.
Stephen C Foster (Fargo) Hidden Pond
Guided Hike&Bike to Hidden Pond
Bike to a pond near the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp that usually only park rangers see.
Reynolds Mansion (Salep Island) Chocolate Plantation & Shell Ring
Take an exclusive day trip to the north end of Sapelo Island to tour the ruins of Chocolate Plantation and see ancient Native American shell rings dating back more than 4,500 years. Chocolate was once a prosperous antebellum Sea Island cotton plantation. The name “Chocolate” derives from the old Guale Indian village on Sapelo named Chucalate.
Wormsloe (Savannah)Great Savannah Race Embankments
Learn about The Great Savannah Races of 1908-1911 (the first Grand Prix) and the race embankment that still remains on Wormsloe property.