ATLANTA, September 27, 2012 – Georgia’s state parks will be open free of charge Sept. 29 in honor of National Public Lands Day.
As Andy Fleming, executive director of the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, aptly summed up in the official news release, “Parks add so much to our lives. We’re hoping more people will visit the state park closest to their homes, and that they’ll join one of the service projects happening that day.”
The state of Georgia operates more than 60 sites throughout the state. They include Civil War battle sites, golf courses and natural wonders.
With that in mind, here are five Georgia state parks worth experiencing:
Amicalola Falls, Dawsonville
At 729 feet tall, Amicalola Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Georgia. The falls’ name is derived from the Cherokee word for “tumbling waters” and is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia,” as identified by state librarian Ella May Thornton in the Atlanta Georgian magazine on Dec. 26, 1926.
The land that is today Amicalola Falls State Park was controlled by the Cherokee Indians until 1832. The Treaty of New Echota mandated that the Cherokee move west as part of what is today known as the Trail of Tears.
In addition to the falls, the 829-acre state park features a lodge, cottages and a campground. There are also 12 miles of hiking trails; an eight-mile trail connects the state park with Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Fort King George, Darien
In 1721 – a dozen years before “Georgia’s First City,” Savannah, was founded – Fort King George was both the first English settlement on Georgia’s coast and the British Empire’s southernmost outpost in North America. It remained the southernmost settlement until 1736 when Fort Frederica was built on what is today St. Simon’s Island. Abandoned in 1727, the location of Fort King George was lost until it was rediscovered in 1932.
With the help of historic drawings, the Lower Altamaha Historical Society and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in 1988 built replicas of a number of the fort’s former structures, including the cypress blockhouse.
Today, the park highlights the area’s 18th century cultural history, including the Guale Indians, the 17th century Spanish mission Santo Domingo de Talaje, Fort King George and the Scottish colonists.
Etowah Indian Mounds, Cartersville
The Etowah Indian Mounds have survived for centuries and offer a one-of-a-kind look at this bygone civilization. Designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s, this 54-acre state park includes a museum with artifacts discovered at the site, six mounds the natives built and a number of other related sites.
One of the smaller mounds, known as Mound C, was completely excavated and rebuilt. What archaeologists discovered inside of Mound C provided historians with a wealth of information about this society.
In total, park officials say they have excavated about 9 percent of the site, but those excavations have revealed an abundance of information about the society and its rituals. Many of the artifacts unearthed at the site — including tools, artwork and jewelry — are on display at the park’s museum.
Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls
By the 1880s, hotels and relates businesses began to spring up around Tallulah Gorge, a growing destination for tourists. The Tallulah Falls Railway shuttled tourists to see the two-mile-long, 1,000-foot tall gorge and the falls, known as the “Niagara of the South.”
But, with the turn of the 20th century the gorge started to change as Georgia Railway and Power started building dams along the river in the early 1900s.
Today, the 2,739-acre Tallulah Gorge State Park was established in 1993 as part of a partnership with Georgia Power. Visitors today can hike the gorge’s rim to a number of stunning, albeit hair-raising vantage points with nothing more than an iron railing, keeping guests from falling over the edge.
Tallulah Falls and the gorge are probably best known as the filming location for Deliverance.
Pickett’s Mill Battlefield, Dallas
In 1864, there were few bright spots for the Confederate troops battling Union Gen. William T. Sherman during his march to Atlanta. But, Pickett’s Mill was one of them.
The battlefield, which today includes a museum in addition to nearly 150-year-old earthworks and miles of wooded trails, is often described as “one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation.” On May 17, 1864, Union troops commanded by Gen. Oliver O. Howard attacked what they thought was the exposed right flank of Confederate forces commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
They were wrong; Confederate troops repulsed the attack. By the end of the battle, there were 500 confederate casualties to the Union’s 1,600. Sherman barely mentioned the battle in his official reports and his memoirs.
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