1. Amicalola Falls,
located in the Appalachian Mountains near Helen, Georgia, is a
ever moving ribbon of tumbling silver. It is the centerpiece of
Amicalola Falls State Park. The park offers camping, cabins, a
luxurious lodge and restaurants as well as other park amenities.
Amicalola is the Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters."
That’s certainly an appropriate word for these 729-foot
falls, the highest in Georgia. Over a century ago, the Cherokee
braves would journey up the mountain on a vision quest. To them
the falls were sacred. When the white man came, the beauty of
the area caused them to covet it. Today, you can vacation at an
impressive stone lodge built high atop the mountain.
2. Okefenokee Swamp From
the mountains to the swamp, Georgia's gems are diverse.
Okefenokee Swamp, on the Florida line in Southwest Georgia, is
America's largest, most pristine swamp. Stephen C. Foster State
Park is the perfect place to camp right in the middle of the
swamp. The Okefenokee Swamp Park lets visitors meet some swamp
“critters" up close. There are also boat tours and a railroad
system. Do stop at the Pioneer Village and visit the
reproduction of the Wiles Cabin. The Okefenokee Heritage Center
gives you a glimpses of the swamp and surrounding area's
history. The train transports visitors back to when Waycross was
a rural crossroads and timber center. And Southern Forest World
will let you stand inside a giant hollow cypress or climb a fire
tower. Obediah's Okefenok was built around the 127-year-old
cabin of real life swamp man Henry Obediah Barber. You can hike
more than 1,000 feet of boardwalk through the Okefenokee
wetlands; the little zoo there combines wild and domestic
3. Providence Canyon is
your choice if you always wanted to explore Grand Canyon. It's
Western Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon" located near Lumpkin.
Nature's artistry is has outdone itself here. The canyon's steep
sides are splashed with radiant colors, purest white to deepest
purple and every hue in-between. There are more than nine miles
of hiking trails. You can choose to hike the rim or descend to
the bottom of one of the 150-foot-deep canyons. The best views
are along the park's eastern side. To immerse yourself in this
experience, try camping and traversing the park's trails over
several days. There are primitive campsites along the route, or
if you want to RV it, you can stay at nearby Florence Marina
State Park just 16 miles west of Lumpkin. The amazing thing
about this "natural" wonder is that it traces its beginning to
"unnatural" causes. Unlike the Western canyons created by raging
rivers, it was formed by bad farming practices in the 1800s.
Drainage runoff from farms that had cleared the natural wooded
areas for irrigation purposes cut deep ravines in the soft
Georgia clay.“Providence Canyon State Park is such a surprising
place to visit because few people realize it's man-made. I also
find it fascinating to walk in a thin layer of water that
constantly coats the canyon floor. You're actually walking
through the water table," observes Kim Hatcher, public affairs
coordinator for Georgia's State Parks.
4. Stone Mountain is one
attraction in the Atlanta area that literally towers over all
others. Stone Mountain, the largest granite outcropping in the
world with its Confederate heroes carved in giant scale, is
eye-candy in the highest form. Native Americans long respected
the huge granite outcropping as a mystical healing place with
There is more than the actual mountain
to see. There are Antebellum Plantations, Thornton House, a
1790s home of a well-to-do planter that has been moved to the
site from Union Point, Dickey House, a Tara-like Greek Revival
mansion, and clapboard slave cabins. The Crossroads section of
the park is filled with shops and eateries. You can circle the
park via its own train. The museum tells the history of this
mystical mountain. You can ride the Ducks, enjoy a performance
at the Tall Tales of the South Theater, play golf or miniature
golf, or just lounge around and watch a spectacular laser show.
You can hike or take the SkyRide to the peak. From the top you
can see all the way into downtown Atlanta and beyond.
5. Tallulah Gorge is
proof that nature doesn't work fast, but the results were worth
the wait. Tallulah Gorge, divides Habersham and Rabun counties.
Over millenniums, the Tallulah River eroded the hard quartzite
rock of Tallulah Dome into one of the deepest gorges in the
eastern United States.
Five waterfalls turn the gorge floor into a cascade of
sparkling lace as the river drops more than 500 feet in less
than a mile. Tallulah Gorge is around two miles long but it
crams a lot of scenery into that distance. Known as
"Niagara of the South",
the dam is opened just five weekends a year, allowing kayakers
to experience the white water's fury. Hiking trails are
available for all levels of hikers, from the Shortline Trail,
paved and easy, to the rugged trail descending to the canyon
floor. Exhibits in the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center
showcase the rich history of the town of Tallulah Falls as well
as the natural charms of this fragile ecosystem.
6. Warm Springs
revered long before the white man settled in this part of
Georgia, Native Americans visited the warm mineral springs. They
thought of them as a sacred place, a place of healing. Later
these healing waters drew settlers. In 1832 David Rose began the
first “resort area” in Warm Springs. It became a popular summer
resort. Later, in 1893, Charles Davis built a 300-room Victorian
called Meriwether Inn. The inn had all the latest amenities and
of course the main draw, the 90-degree springs flowing from the
hillside of Pine Mountain. At the turn of the century, the
resort and the town fell into a decline and were almost
forgotten except by the few lucky residents. In 1907, Hotel Warm
Springs was built on the site of the oldest building in the
town. The hotel changed hands and at one time was named
Tuscawilla Hotel after a Creek princess. The owner at that time,
Mr. Butts, was so enthralled with the name he also named his
oldest daughter Tuscawilla.
The name is still part of the hotel history and lore and
lives on in the ice cream parlor, known as the Tuscawilla Soda
Shop, once frequented by President Roosevelt. It was the former
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who is credited with the
town's 20th century revival when, in 1924, he visited the town’s
naturally heated mineral springs as treatment for his
polio-related paralysis. He advocated the name change to Warm
Springs to promote the healing mineral springs.
discovered Warm Springs, he decided to build a cottage there
away from the hustle and bustle of politics. He built the modest
home that later came to be known as the Little White House while
still governor of New York just a year before being inaugurated
as president. Here, he was able to escape into the charm of this
small Southern town where he took refuge from the pressures of
leading a nation during the worst war the world has ever known.
It was here that he died on April 12, 1945. He left
behind a legacy in which any world leader could take pride. The
home is now a Georgia Historic Site and Museum. It was here,
while posing for a portrait on April 12, 1945, that FDR suffered
a stroke and died a short while later. Today, the “Unfinished
Portrait” and many other pieces of Roosevelt memorabilia are
housed at the museum dedicated to his memory.
7. Radium Springs
last of the wonders I visited. It's certainly not the least. It
pours 70.000 gallons of water per minute into the Flint River.
It's on the east
side of the river at Albany. The
first thing you notice about the springs is the beautiful blue
color of its water. The reason for both the color and the name
is a rather unusual one for a place that gained fame for the
healing properties of the water.
It had originally been named Blue Spring but in the early
20th century, it was found to contain traces of the highly
radioactive element radium. The name was changed and wealthy
visitors swarmed to the area. Barron Collier, who later
developed much of south Florida, built a elaborate casino and
Today, you can't (and probably
wouldn't want to) swim in the turquoise waters but you will want
to explore the grounds where the once magnificent resort stood.
The casino was destroyed by two devastating floods but its
outline is now the entrance to the
beautiful gardens that flourishes there. It's free and
filled with natural beauty a hard-to-beat combination nowadays.
The Flint river Aquarium in Albany showcases the many
verities of life found in the springs.
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