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Amazing Things to Do at National Parks in Georgia

Trace the country's history from prehistoric settlements to the civil rights movement by visiting these eight Georgia national park sites.

By Amit KumarPublished about a year ago 4 min read

The National Park System has been dubbed "America's best idea," with thousands of protected acres of various landscapes. However, it also includes historic sites, recreation areas, and other culturally significant locations. Georgia has 11 national parks, three national heritage areas, two national trails, and many other special places managed by the National Park Service for park events in Atlanta to St. Simons Island. Not only will you find breathtaking scenery, but you will also be able to trace the country's history from prehistoric settlements to the civil rights movement by visiting these eight Georgia national park sites.

1. Find out how a U.S. President grew up in Plains

The Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains tells the story of Georgia's only president, Jimmy Carter. It includes his childhood home, the high school he and his wife Rosalynn attended, and the former train depot that served as his campaign headquarters. Artifacts and exhibits related to his extraordinary life and rise from peanut farmer to Nobel Peace Prize winner can be found in all of them.

2. Explore a prehistoric American Indian site in Macon

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon dates back 17,000 years. The 702-acre park, located on the Ocmulgee River just outside of downtown, has eight miles of walking trails and an informative museum with over 2,000 artifacts. Climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound and explore the continent's only reconstructed Earth Lodge with its original 1,000-year-old floor. There is also a former colonial trading post on the property. Two of the best events held there are the Ocmulgee Lantern Light Tours and the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration.

3. See the archeological remains of colonists on St. Simons

St. Simons Island's Fort Frederica National Monument was built in 1736 as a buffer between Spanish Florida and British South Carolina. The fort was later disbanded after James Oglethorpe's troops defended the island from the Spanish. Some remnants of the structure can still be found today, including pieces of wall made of tabby, a mixture of shell, sand, and water. Archaeologists are now working on the site to learn more about life during this period of colonial history, and visitors can view some of the objects discovered on the site in the visitor center museum.

4. Learn about Gullah Geechee cultures on the coast

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor runs from Georgia to South Carolina and teaches visitors about the African people who settled in the Sea Islands and developed their own Creole-style language, cuisine, and culture. Explore the following Georgia sites that are part of the corridor:

The Pin Point Heritage Museum in Savannah is housed in a former crab and oyster factory founded by freed slaves. Exhibits highlight the Pin Point area and the primary employer.

The Geechee Kunda Museum in Riceboro focuses on Gullah Geechee arts and crafts dating back to the 1700s. It is set in a former rice and indigo plantation community and hosts community events with local artisans and performers.

Dorchester Academy in Midway served as a school for freed slaves following the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. even came here to help plan the 1963 Birmingham march.

Hog Hammock, a Geechee community of descendants of enslaved West Africans on the island's plantation, is located on Sapelo Island. There are historic homes and buildings in the area, as well as tours.

Similarly, on the northern end of Cumberland Island, a community of freed slaves established landmarks such as the First African Baptist Church.

Harris Neck is now a wildlife refuge, but it was a cotton plantation in the past. Following abolition, freed slaves purchased land and worked as subsistence farmers and watermen.

Built in the 1920s, the Historic Harrington School served as the primary educational structure for three Gullah Geechee communities on St. Simons Island. It is now a museum as well as a cultural center.

The Wanderer Memory Trail on Jekyll Island tells the story of the Wanderer, America's last known slave ship. The trail runs along the banks of the Jekyll River, where the ship illegally landed with over 500 enslaved Africans 160 years ago.

5. Explore a historic community in Lithonia

Arabia Mountain is one of Georgia's incredible "monadnocks," or massive granite outcroppings, but hiking trails and wildlife are only a small part of the 40,000-acre national heritage area's appeal. Flat Rock, one of Georgia's oldest African American communities, was founded in the 1800s. The Flat Rock Archives is a museum and genealogical resource about the community's early families. There are guided tours available, including the historic cemetery.

6. Hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s voice in Atlanta

Visitors come from all over the world to see the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical park in Atlanta for events, which includes his birth home, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his tomb. The National Park Service-managed site has a museum with artifacts, including the wagon that carried his casket on an April 9, 1968 funeral march through Atlanta. Visitors can see the Grammy Award he won for Best Spoken Word and the hotel key from the Lorraine Motel, where the modern civil rights leader was assassinated, at the King Center across the street.

7. Tour an industrial power canal in Augusta

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area is an engineering marvel that has been harnessing the power of the Savannah River for power since 1845. The canal's energy spurred the establishment of textile mills and manufacturing operations in the area. Aside from the museum at the Discovery Center, which focuses on the canal's history, there are boat tours of the nearly 12-mile heritage area and hiking, running, and biking trails. Canoers and kayakers can also enjoy paddling the canal.

8. See an Appalachian Trail anomaly in Blairsville

If you don't want to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, or even traverse the starting point at Springer Mountain, you can still "hike the AT." The Appalachian National Scenic Trail passes through Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap in Blairsville, a hiking store and hiker hostel housed in a building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. It's the only time the Appalachian Trail's 2,193 miles pass through a man-made structure.

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Amit Kumar

Full-time thinker & part-time writer...

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