Many of Georgia’s 56 state parks and historic sites sit on prime real estate. Tugaloo State Park is one of them. It’s on a wooded peninsula that touches the shores of the nearly 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell. Tugaloo is a water-sports paradise.
Swimming, boating, canoeing and kayaking, sailing, water skiing, fishing or just sitting on a sandy beach enjoying the sun and the refreshing lake air are among the water-related activities available at Tugaloo. Other activities include hiking, geocaching, volleyball, tennis, horseshoes and miniature golf.
Individuals, couples or families with children can visit the park for a day or spend a few nights at one of 20 cottages, six yurts, 105 RV and tent campsites and 11 walk-in campsites. There also are seven picnic shelters, one large group shelter and one pavilion. Because Lake Hartwell is known for its largemouth bass, the park has a six-lane “mega-ramp” that’s used to support major fishing tournaments.
“It’s a great park to visit,” park manager Scott Hudgins said. “We have a beautiful lake and a lot to offer families and fishermen.”
Hudgins said the 393-acre park is easy to access from Interstate 85, but it’s far enough from traffic noise that visitors can enjoy peaceful days and quiet evenings in the swings and benches surrounding the lake or on cottage porches or decks attached to the yurts. Tugaloo is a place to unwind.
He said the yurts were just completed in October and immediately were booked. It’s more difficult to get a yurt on weekends than weekdays, he said. Yurts are increasingly popular for overnight guests who don’t own a recreational vehicle and aren’t quite ready for rustic camping. They also tend to be a lot cheaper.
At most parks, a night’s stay in a cottage is $115-$135 while a night in a yurt is only $70. Those willing to hoof it into the woods with 100 pounds of camping gear on their backs can stay in their own tents for about $25 a night.
“A yurt is more of permanent tent,” Hudgins said, describing the cylindrical structures with cone roofs. “We bought them from a company in Colorado. It has hard vinyl walls and a roof. It has wooden floors, and most have a deck on both sides.”
He said yurts do have electricity for lighting and to run large ceiling fans. He said the dome on the cone-shaped roof can be raised so hot air can be drawn upward and outside. There are no bathroom facilities in the yurt. Instead, there is a nearby public restroom that includes showers. He said the “comfort stations” near larger yurts are specifically for big families and handicapped individuals.
“That’s because these bathrooms are handicapped-accessible,” he said.
Other yurts cater specifically to fishermen. These are a “stone’s throw” from the lake, which means anglers only have to move fishing gear one time rather than transport it from a vehicle to the yurt then further down the bank to a fishing spot.
Hudgins said the yurts are furnished with futon beds and bunk beds and a small dining area. Water, picnic tables and a charcoal grill are found outside. Many of the decks also are furnished with Adirondack chairs, allowing patrons to sit and take in the lake view.
Hudgins, who also is a Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife law-enforcement officer, said he enjoys his job at Tugaloo State Park. He came to Tugaloo from Unicoi State Park and Lodge, where he served 12 years. Unicoi is near the alpine town of Helen, best known for its month-long Oktoberfest cerebration.
For more information about Tugaloo State Park, go to www.gastateparks.org/Tugaloo or call 706-356-4362.