Georgia state parks offer summer fun for kids

Fri, 06/08/2007 - 2:58pm
By: The Citizen

Kids are barely out of school for summer break and are probably already whining about having nothing to do or being bored. Today’s generation of youngsters tends to be more sedentary with video games and computers filling their time rather than feeling the draw to play outdoors. Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites will be offering an action-packed summer full of events and programs to draw the kids outside.

The park system provides many excellent recreational activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, horseback riding and miniature golf that can be more fun than hanging out indoors. This summer, Georgia’s 63 state parks, historic sites and golf courses are enticing residents to “Get Outdoors Georgia” by offering dozens of planned events. With at least one state park within an hour’s drive of everyone in the state, families have a nearby place to get out and explore nature.

Kids are invited to gather their rods and reels, favorite bait and a sense of adventure for fishing rodeos, derbies and tournaments hosted at many state parks. While each park’s contest varies, most offer a chance to catch fish such as trout, catfish, bass or bream, learn tackle technique and conservation methods, and win prizes.

The following parks will holding fishing-themed events: Fort Yargo, in Winder, Vogel, in Blairsville, and Mocassin Creek, in Clarkesville, state parks on June 9; Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, in Helen, on June 16, July 21 and Aug. 18; and Reed Bingham State Park, in Adel, on June 23.

Those looking for Fourth of July weekend festivities will find plenty at Georgia’s state parks. From organized fireworks displays, to games such as sack races and watermelon seed spitting contests, concerts, wagon rides, dances, parades, marshmallow roasts, patriotic crafting and boat rides, there is something for everyone. Families who want to book a campsite or cottage will want to make reservations early with summer being a busy time of year.

The holiday weekend isn’t the only time to experience outdoor festivals this summer. Sweetwater Creek State Park, in Lithia Springs, will host “Sweetwater Creek Summer Festival” June 9-10, featuring juried arts and crafts exhibits, live entertainment, children’s activities, great food and an appearance by Ken Panse, author of Gigantus, who will be presenting an “Exotic Reptile Adventure Show.”

Unicoi State Park and Lodge, in Helen, will hold the annual Helen Fat Tire Festival June 16-17, along with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA). Join the park for two and a half days of mountain biking fun complete with cookouts, bonfires, trail demos, bike games, movies and a scavenger hunt ride on the trails of Unicoi.

Also, parents will appreciate the educational aspects of living history demonstrations, offered at many state parks. The kids, meanwhile, will be having so much fun they don’t realize they are being schooled in the chores of yesteryear. Dahlonega Gold Museum, in Dahlonega, gives visitors a peek at mining life with demonstrations on gold panning, blacksmithing, and shingle, candle, folk toy, pioneer tools and basket making with “A Day in a Miner’s Life” on June 9.

Elijah Clark State Park, in Lincolnton, will teach kids how to make candles the old-fashioned way with “Hand-Dipped Candle Making” also on June 9.

Also that same day, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, in Pine Mountain, will showcase a blacksmith at work with “A Day with the Blacksmiths.”

Another popular event is the “Night Time Iron Pour” at Red Top Mountain State Park and Lodge, in Cartersville. Held June 23, the park provides an exciting experience when molten iron is dispensed into keepsake memento block molds after a dramatic firing at 2800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additional “old ways” demonstrations include “Pioneer Cooking” at Elijah Clark on June 23; “Chief Vann House Days” at Chief Vann House Historic Site, in Chatsworth on July 28; “Gold Fever” at Smithgall Woods on August 4; “Folk Life Traditions” at Unicoi on August 10-11 and “Blacksmith Workshop for Beginners” at Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site, in Fitzgerald, on Aug. 11.

Additionally, animal-loving youth will want to check out the wildlife adventures and programming offered. “Snakes Alive” will enthrall reptile enthusiasts at Tugaloo State Park, in Lavonia, on June 30.

Kids can catch a glimpse of an alligator during “Alligator Day” at Florence Marina State Park, in Omaha, on June 9 or at Kolomoki Mounds State Park, in Blakely, on Aug. 4. Experts will showcase live birds during “Birds of Prey” at Tugaloo on Aug. 4. Providence Canyon State Park, in Lumpkin, will feature a program on mammals on Aug. 18.

Those who are just looking to get outside for a day of adventure can choose from a variety of sporting activities. Participate in a hike to identify rocks beside impressive Civil War-era ruins and creek rapids during the “Geology Hike” at Sweetwater Creek on June 16.

Learn how to shoot a bow and arrow at both stationary and moving targets with “Archery” at Smithgall Woods on July 14. Explore the world from high above with a “Tree Climbing Rendezvous” at F.D. Roosevelt on Aug. 11.

While all the various events during the summer offer a single day of activities, Georgia State Parks’ Junior Ranger program allows children ages 6-12 to work towards earning merit badges over a longer period of time.

By following the guidelines in the Junior Ranger Activity Book they will experience nature first-hand, explore Georgia's fascinating history and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. The experience builds as children work their way through three badge levels. Junior Rangers can work through the activity requirements on their own or with the help of a parent or other adult.

Some parks and historic sites offer Junior Ranger day camps or workshops during summer. Free Junior Ranger Activity Books are available online or at Georgia's State Parks & Historic Sites.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources operates the Georgia State Parks system. From the north Georgia mountains to the Colonial Coast, 48 parks and 15 historic sites are scattered throughout the state’s most scenic locales. Natural environments, comfortable lodging, affordable rates and exciting recreational activities await guests year-round.

For specific event details and pricing or to find out more about the Junior Ranger program, visit
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