Georgia manages 63 state parks and historic sites, but only four lodges. One of those is George T. Bagby State Park and Lodge, a 700-acre lakeside getaway on the eastern banks of Lake Eufaula near the Alabama border.
The 60-room lodge offers motel-style rooms with two double beds or one king-size bed. There also are handicapped-accessible rooms, a convention hall and the Pilot House Grille Restaurant, which offers a la carte as well as buffet meals. The restaurant sits on a bluff overlooking the 48,000-acre Lake Eufaula, also called Lake Walter F. George.
Family fun begins with the lake trail that leads from the boating dock below the restaurant along a mile or more of shoreline and passes through a children's playground near the park's five two-bedroom cottages to the public beach/swimming area and marina. The Chattahoochee Trail offers three more miles of hiking opportunities through tall slash pine forests and skirts the edges of swampy bottoms and marshes.
Crows, cardinals, blue jays and red-winged blackbirds fill the piney air with squawking calls or melodious bird songs. During this time of year, a variety of ducks and Canadian geese lift their voices as they land in the lake or marsh ponds. Deer, rabbits and squirrels - including the oversized fox squirrel - will leap or scurry across the trail, sometimes pausing to look at hikers who themselves scurry to take pictures of wildlife.
Of course, by the time the camera is in focus, the camera-shy critter is gone.
Golfers, too, can find sanctuary at Bagby State Park on Meadow Links, its 18-hole course. Fishermen and boaters can dock and launch their own boats or rent canoes from the marina. Fishing at Lake Eufaula always is good. Largemouth bass, crappie and catfish are the main catches. In fact, the state record blue catfish was caught there in 2010.
Other family fun activities include a swimming pool, bicycling, waterskiing, GeoCaching, tennis and volleyball, not to mention picnicking. A group cottage that sleeps up to 10 people and a group picnic shelter that seats 125 people also are available.
Activities in nearby Fort Gaines include an 1814 frontier village, which overlooks the Chattahoochee River. The village commemorates the town's historic beginnings as a frontier outpost that, for a while, developed into a thriving "wild west-like" community that supported gold-hungry prospectors' last few nights on the town before taking the Chattahoochee River south to the Gulf of Mexico and then on to Texas.
To get to George T. Bagby State Park & Lodge, take U.S. 84 south to Waycross, then U.S. 82 west through Tifton, Albany and Dawson to the town of Cuthbert. Once there, take state Highway 266 to Fort Gaines. The park is about three miles north of town on state Highway 39.
For more information about the park or for reservations, call 229-768-2571.