ATLANTA — Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites welcome more than 7.5 million visitors each year, yet with more than 60 locations across the Peach State, much is still uncharted territory. Ever wanted to know the rangers’ favorite secret spots? The park system is now revealing “Hidden Gems” selected by those who know the parks best.
Few of the little-known locations, artifacts or historical features are mentioned online or in brochures. Instead, visitors are encouraged to explore what’s hidden in Georgia’s backyard during events throughout the year. Programs range from guided hikes to lake paddles — even behind-the-scenes tours. Many of the ranger-led events are on weekends, so visitors can take advantage of an extended stay in a variety of park accommodations from glamping yurts and cozy cottages to camping and RV sites. Make overnight reservations at www.gastateparks.org/reservations. Below is a sample of Hidden Gems waiting to be discovered during 2016 events. Check www.GaStateParks.org/HiddenGems for a complete list of programs spotlighting these secrets.
Amicalola Falls State Park (Dawsonville) — Many know the park for its famous cascading waterfall, but hidden on the trail to the falls is an old blue moonshine truck from the Prohibition era. While drivers were racing to get away from “revenuers,” the truck slipped 200 feet down the steep incline to its current resting spot against a stand of poplar trees.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park (Newnan) — Along the banks of the southern portion of the Chattahoochee River, nature-spotters and paddlers can scope out a nest of America’s beloved bald eagle.
Chief Vann House Historic Site (Chatsworth) — See burn scars on the staircase where Georgia militia tried to smoke Cherokee Indian Joseph Vann from his home in 1835.
Indian Springs State Park (Flovilla) — As one of the oldest state parks in the nation, it’s no surprise that the hidden gem is the history of this park. Creek Indians once inhabited the area, and in the 1800s, the land was a resort town.
Panola Mountain State Park (Stockbridge) — 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 an expert guide to head off the trail and explore hidden cemeteries, whiskey stills, farming history and more on a strenuous, 6-mile hike.
Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area (Lumpkin) — This canyon was carved by erosion due to poor farming practices during the 1800s. Learn about the “language” of soft coastal plain soils called Nankin, Cowarts, Mobila and Orangeburst.
Roosevelt’s Little White House (Warm Springs) — President Franklin D. Roosevelt was fond of model ships. See a replica of the Mayflower on display in his den, carved from the original 1620 ship’s timber.
Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island (Darien) — Take an exclusive trip to the north end of Sapelo Island to tour cotton plantation ruins called Chocolate Plantation, and see ancient Native American shell rings dating back more than 4,500 years.
Wormsloe Historic Site (Savannah) — Learn about The Great Savannah Races of 1908-1911 (the first grand prix) and the race embankment that remains on Wormsloe property.
A few parks are spotlighting different hidden gems each month. Sweetwater Creek State Park (Lithia Springs) highlights many of the ruins from the 19th century including Alexander’s Mill Ruins and an old homestead. At Tallulah Gorge State Park (Tallulah Falls), hidden gems reveal Witch’s Head rock formation, the old jailhouse, the gorge floor cave and a spectacular sunset spot.