This park was a great surprise – we hadn’t planned on visiting it on the day we did. We were driving back home from Richard B. Russell State Park and I suddenly saw a sign that said Watson Mill Bridge was just a few miles away. So we turned off the highway and a short while later we were cooling off in the water of the South Fork River.
The bridge is Georgia’s longest covered bridge and was built in 1885 by the son of a freed slave. It is remarkable to see that a bridge built so long ago using wooden pins still holds up under the modern day vehicles that drive over it.
The park boasts of several miles worth of trails, but once Trey saw that we could go on the rocks and enjoy the water any thoughts of hiking were over. After walking across the bridge and exploring the river’s banks for a while, I had to give in and let Trey swim. We didn’t have our river shoes so we had to be extra careful on the slippery rocks. I took Trey up to the waterfall under the bridge but he was not a fan of the spray. Don’t know what his issue is with that – for the same reason we can never give him showers, only baths.
Click the image below to open a panoramic image in a new window:
Richard B. Russell Jr. was a popular guy – not only did he serve as governor of Georgia from 1931-33, but he was a US Senator for almost 40 years. After his death he had all sorts of buildings, a road, a lake, a dam, an airport, a submarine, and yes, a state park named after him. That’s quite a legacy!
This state park’s main attraction is its 18-hole championship golf course, but you can guess that wasn’t what Trey and I were particularly interested in. We spent all of our time on a playground near the banks of the lake and had a picnic lunch on the shore.
The park boasts that it has one of the oldest steel pin bridges in the area but when we went to see it, the trail leading to it was closed. Just as well I guess since Trey was already pretty exhausted from climbing on the playground and running around on the beach.
We tried visiting Hart State Park months ago, but ended up having to stay in a motel and skip it due to terrible weather. This time we arrived just in time – as I spoke to the ranger I found out it was the last day the park would be a State Park. He was closing the office, the cottages were no longer being rented out, the campground would be self-registration & first-come-first-serve, and the park was being downgraded to a “State Outdoor Recreation Area”. All this is due to the severe budget cuts the state of Georgia has been making.
Trey and I hiked down a nature trail to Lake Hartwell and then followed the shoreline a bit. It was a blistering hot day and Trey really wanted to swim, so I stripped him down to his undies and let him splash around. The red clay under the water was a neat contrast to the bright blue skies above.
Most of the last stretch of state parks we had to visit were all along the Georgia-South Carolina state line. Tugaloo is a park on a peninsula that stretches out into Hartwell Lake. Before Hartwell Dam was built, the river that flowed through that area was called by its Indian name “Tugaloo”.
Trey and I camped at Tugaloo in one of the “primitive” campsites. I still don’t understand why our secluded campsite right on the lake had running water, an outhouse, and only cost $12. Had we camped at a normal campsite we would have been packed into area with dozens of other campers and paid $22. The only extra amenity would have been electricity.
Trey really enjoyed roasting marshmallows before going to bed and in the morning we got up and headed down to the lake. We walked a short nature trails before hopping in the car and headed south to Hart State Park.
In 12 months, Trey and I visited every one of Georgia’s 63 incredible state parks and historic sites! We finished up at Mistletoe State Park near Augusta on July 4th.
We purchased a new annual pass and this time got a family membership. The family membership includes two tickets for a train on the SAM Shortline – a treat Trey will really enjoy.
I’m really proud of Trey for being such a fun companion and I’m glad Heidi got to join us on a lot of the excursions. When Trey grows up he is going to have a great photo album to remind him of the adventures we had.
I’m a bit behind on posting photos from our park visits, so over the next week I’ll be putting up the last six.
This park located northeast of Athens, GA has a little bit of something for everyone: 10 miles of hiking trails, camp sites, stocked fish ponds, a swimming pool, and a golf course. It is a bit of a drive from Macon so when we arrived Trey was fast asleep. I woke him up and we slowly (very slowly) walked along the creek to the falls and then up to a playground. By the time we got to the playground he was wide awake and ready to burn some energy.
I was reminded how the littlest things can leave the biggest impression on kids. With all the amenities this park has to offer, Trey was most impressed by a portion of the road where the creek flows over it. It blew his mind that we got to drive the car through the creek. Ah, the simple pleasures of life!
It seems each of the last few forts we’ve visited has been my new favorite. Fort King George is the last of state historic sites that Trey and I needed to visit (yeah!) and it gets the prize of being the coolest fort in Georgia. They started off on the right foot by giving Trey a toy rifle to tour the grounds with (“kaboom! kaboom!”). Their reconstructed fort is in pristine condition and quite an interesting work of architecture (they re-built it based on drawings and writings from the time).
The fort was built way back in the early 1700s at the southern most point of the British Empire. The soldiers were defending the Altamaha River from the Spanish and their Indian allies. After the Revolutionary war, the fort was dismantled and replaced by saw mills as the nearby town of Darien became an important exporter of lumber.
While we were there the park ranger spotted two manatees in the river by the fort but we were too late and missed them. I tried explaining to Trey what a manatee was without having any visual references and it didn’t go to well. Referring to them as “Sea cows” only confused him more as he kept looking around and saying “Daddy, I don’t see any cows.”
When you visit Wormsloe Historic Site you enter and drive over a mile down a straight road covered by ancient live oaks covered in Spanish moss. It is a pretty incredible sight! At the end of the road is a museum and nature trails that lead to the tabby ruins of Noble Jones’ colonial estate. Jones was a carpenter who was part of the first group of settlers to arrive in Georgia from England in the early 1700s. The museum had a great little documentary about the history of those first settlers and the role Jones and his family played.
We didn’t spend too much time at this site as we had to drive to Fort King George and then on to Tampa. The nature trails led us from the tabby ruins to other restored structures that showed what colonial life was like in the early 1700s (hint, not good). Given the heat, humidity, and bugs we experienced in the two hours we were there, I don’t think it would have been that pleasant to live there.
On our way down to Florida we went a bit out of our way in order to swing through Savannah and visit 3 more state parks and historic sites. We went straight to Fort McAllister and setup our brand new tent that I got for my birthday. The tent is much bigger than our old tent and you can take off the rain cover and it is mostly screen – much better for camping in the Savannah marshes in the humid summer heat.
After the tent was up we walked a nature trail that went through some woods to the banks of the Ogeechee River and its marshes. I neglected to put on our 100% deet bug spray and we were slaughtered by biting flies and mosquitoes.
In the morning, before heading out we swung by the fort and where they let Trey borrow a wooden rifle to patrol the grounds with. What a brilliant idea! He had a blast pointing it and shouting “Kaboom!” – it kept him so preoccupied that I didn’t have to worry about him messing with the historical ruins and artifacts.
This historic site is an earthwork fortification, meaning that there weren’t above ground buildings but instead mounds and trenches. It is one of the best preserved forts we’ve visited in Georgia. Several of the underground barracks and storerooms are restored and you can go inside of them to see exactly how the Confederate soldiers lived while defending it during the Civil War.
Once again – kudos to the staff at Fort McAllister for coming up with the idea of giving kids the toy rifles!