Category Archives: Recreation

Georgia State Parks’ “Leaf Watch” Website Tracks Best Fall Color

For many people, the perfect autumn weekend includes cozy campfires and gooey s’mores surrounded by fiery-hued forests.  To help leaf peepers plan their fall escapes, Georgia’s state parks will soon launch “Leaf Watch 2018” to track fall color as it moves across the Peach State.

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth

Found at GeorgiaStateParks.org/LeafWatch, the travel planner is filled with top trails and overlooks, mountain cabins and campsites, fall events and hiking safety tips.  Shutterbugs are encouraged to share their favorite shots on the Georgia State Parks’ Facebook page and Instagram, tagging #GaLeafWatch and #GaStateParks. Rangers will also post updates on how fall color is progressing in their parks.

Typically, Georgia’s mountain parks peak in late October; however, color can be seen as early as September and throughout much of November. Some of the most popular parks for leaf watching include Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Tallulah Gorge and Vogel. Since mountain parks are heavily visited on October weekends, travelers may want to explore lesser-known parks which can be vibrant as well. Hardwoods and mossy rock gardens can be found at F.D. Roosevelt State Park in near Columbus.

Georgia State Parks offer a variety of accommodations where leaf peepers can stay in the heart of autumn scenery. Guests can choose from cabins, campsites and yurts – a “glamping” option that is like a combination tent-cabin.  Accommodations may be reserved 13 months in advance, and many fill up on October weekends. Guests are encouraged to make plans as early as possible or visit during weekdays. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-864-7275 or at GeorgiaStateParks.org/Reservations.

Park rangers have planned numerous events throughout autumn, including guided hikes and paddles, fall festivals, Halloween hayrides and campground trick-or-treating. A list of events can be found at GeorgiaStateParks.org.

Top Ten Georgia State Parks for Fall Color

Amicalola Falls State Park – Dawsonville
Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall.  A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views.  There is also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top.  For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/AmicalolaFalls

Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton
At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park.  (Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest peak.) Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike.  For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/BlackRockMountain

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Near Chattanooga
One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging trails.  A favorite hike takes you down a staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls.  (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.)  The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/CloudlandCanyon

F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain
Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta.  The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail.  For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and views of the forested valley.  Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/FDRoosevelt

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth
This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s green lake.  For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail.  Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore.  Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping to see.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/FortMountain

Moccasin Creek State Park – Lake Burton
Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake.  Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower.  Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/MoccasinCreek

Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen
Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color.  Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls.  A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees.  Smithgall Woods has some of the park system’s most sought-after cabins and is near wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/SmithgallWoods

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Near Clayton
Tallulah Gorge is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom. (Permits run out early on weekend mornings.) During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.”
GeorgiaStateParks.org/TallulahGorge

Unicoi State Park – Helen
Ziplines take you high above the forest canopy for a unique view of leaves. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. Unicoi offers a lodge and restaurant.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/Unicoi

Vogel State Park – Blairsville
The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering a birds-eye view of the park’s lake.  For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall below the dam.  The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.
GeorgiaStateParks.org/Vogel

 Safe Hiking Tips

Rangers from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offer these tips for safe hiking:

  • Avoid hiking alone.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.  Remember to let them know when you are back.
  • Stay on marked trails. As you hike, pay attention to trail blazes and landmarks. A double blaze indicates a change in trail direction or intersection, so be sure to follow the correct trail.
  • Never climb on waterfalls or wet rocks.
  • Always carry quality rain gear, and turn back in bad weather.
  • Dress in layers and avoid cotton.
  • All hikers should carry a whistle (especially children), which can be heard far away and takes less energy than yelling.
  • Carry plenty of drinking water and never assume stream water is safe to drink.
  • Don’t count on cell phones to work in the wilderness, but if they do, be able to give details about your location.
  • Don’t rely on a GPS to prevent you from getting lost. Batteries can die or the equipment can become damaged or lost.

 

Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Releases Boating Stats for Operation Dry Water and July 4th

On Monday, July 23, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division released the boating enforcement statistics for Operation Dry Water and for the July 4th holiday reporting period.

Operation Dry Water, a nationwide initiative of heightened enforcement targeting boating under the influence, took place June 29 – July 1. The mission of Operation Dry Water is to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use on the water.

During the weekend, 145 Georgia Game Wardens patrolled 51 different waterways and contacted over 3,500 boaters. They issued 142 boating citations and 235 warnings, and removed 10 drunk boaters from the state’s waterways.

From July 3 – 5, Game Wardens across the state were patrolling Georgia’s waterways for the Independence Day holiday. The numbers were better this year than last year, likely due to the 4th falling on a Wednesday and the heavy afternoon thunderstorms in various parts of the state. This year the officers reported no drownings, 11 BUI arrests, eight boating incidents with four injuries and no boating fatalities. The July 4th holiday weekend in 2017 yielded one drowning, 34 BUI arrests, nine boating incidents (one involving alcohol) with five injuries, and no boating fatalities.

As the Summer boating season continues, the Division is committed to educating boaters about safe boating practices, which includes boating sober, and enforcing the state’s boating under the influence laws.

Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths, and a major contributor to accidents. Boaters are encouraged to enjoy the boating season by boating sober, wearing a life jacket, and taking a boating education course.

Visit operationdrywater.org or gadnrle.org for more information about boating under the influence.

Georgia State Parks and Georgia Public Library Service Celebrate 10 Years of Partnership with Special Programming Through December

 Georgia’s State Park System and Georgia Public Library Service are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their collaborative Library Loan Program. The partnership allows library patrons to check out free ParkPasses and historic sites passes, similar to checking out a book. To celebrate, special events will take place at libraries, state parks and state historic sites from June through December.

Don Carter State Park Beach at Lake Lanier

Since its inception in 2008, the partnership has saved Georgians more than $1 million in parking and admission fees, and has enabled more than 120,000 people to explore beautiful attractions such as Cloudland Canyon and Magnolia Springs, and historic sites like Etowah Indian Mounds and Fort King George.

“We are so proud of our wonderful partnership with Georgia’s Public Libraries,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “The Library Loan Program not only ensures every citizen can visit our sites for free, but it also encourages people to explore new getaways. This helps us showcase our beautiful natural resources and rich history to citizens who might not otherwise learn about. And of course, we hope they’ll tell their friends and come back again.”

Special events will include library visits from Scout, the State Parks’ mascot; programming at the parks for libraries and programming at libraries with parks; park rangers reading to kids at library events; Scout stickers; and a chance to win a co-branded Discovery Backpack containing wildlife guides and binoculars.

“Our partnership with the State Parks and Sites is one of our most popular and enduring statewide collaborations. It has a very special place within the hearts of libraries and patrons,” said Georgia State Librarian Julie Walker. We hope families throughout the state will enjoy two of Georgia’s greatest resources, their state parks and public libraries, this summer​.”

With a valid library card from a participating library system, patrons can check-out the Georgia State Park ParkPass which is good for free parking at 46 state parks, plus admission for up to four people at 17 state historic sites. Along with the ParkPass, patrons are also welcome to check out a Discovery Backpack to use while camping, hiking, fishing, or a day of picnicking on a mountain or lakeside. State Park parking is normally $5 per vehicle, and historic site admission typically ranges from $2 to $12.

Because of the program’s popularity, families interested in borrowing a ParkPass from their local public libraries are advised to plan early, as supplies of the passes are limited to four per library facility.

Participating Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites can be found on GeorgiaStateParks.org. To learn more about the Library Loan Program, visit GaStateParks.org/LibraryLoan. For more information on Georgia’s 407 public libraries and the Discovery Backpack, visit georgialibraries.org or your local library.