By Alvin Richardson
If you haven’t tried out this form of recreation before you should. If you are an old hand you know what I mean. The kids love it and parents get a chance to withdraw from life’s everyday routine to bask in the sun (or shade depending on your preference). You can also fish, swim, hike, go biking, play golf, catch up on your reading, sit by the campfire or just take a nap. There’s plenty to do at the state parks and various camping areas of Georgia and South Carolina.
My wife and I have stayed at many of these campgrounds and have scouted many more. Here are a couple of special places within a couple of hours or so that have our stamp of approval.
Richard B. Russell State Park is about nine miles outside of Elberton. To get there take Highway 77 North out of Elberton and turn on Ruckersville Road. It’s about nine miles to the park entrance on the right. The campground is somewhat small as state parks go with only 28 sites so if you are planning to go on a holiday or weekend better call ahead for reservation information (1-800-864-7275.) About half the campsites are on the water and we recommend those. The numbers of those sites are three thru eight, 12 and 13, 16, 18, and 25. (Hint: No matter where you go, when calling for reservations, let them know what size camper or RV you have. Some of the sites are better suited for larger units).
Although the campground is small the state park itself is about 2700 acres and is loaded with stuff to do. There is a great golf course on the premises (Arrowhead Point), canoe and pedal boat rental, a swimming beach, hiking on a nature trail, a rowing area, fishing or skiing on 26,000 acre Lake Russell, plenty of room for bike riding and even a disc golf course. If you would rather sleep in air-conditioning they also have ten cottages for rent. Even if the campground is full you get the feeling that it is a laid back place. You can do things at your own pace and in un-crowded conditions.
Here’s a tip. If you are not a golfer you should see if they will rent you a golf cart and go scope out the back 9 at Arrowhead Point. You will be rewarded with some awesome scenery as the golf course rises above Lake Russell and looks out over a huge expanse of water. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area is just across the South Carolina state line from Elberton. Take Highway 72 East out of Elberton until you get to Calhoun Falls then turn left on Highway 81 North. The entrance to the campground is less than two miles on the left. The Calhoun Falls facility is larger than Richard B. Russell and there are two well laid out campgrounds with plenty of water front sites. There are 86 sites in all but it is a popular place and it is advisable to call ahead for a reservation. You can call 864-447-8267 to reserve a specific site. There are some really good spots at campground number two and we favor sites 54, 56, 57, and 61 through 67. There are many other good places to camp as well so don’t be disappointed if these are already taken.
Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area is located on Lake Russell and has plenty of amenities. Besides the obvious fishing, swimming and water sports highlights they also have 14 primitive camping sites, hiking trails, a fishing pier, boat ramp, rental slips, and in-water refueling. They also have a park store, picnic areas, picnic shelters, playground, tennis courts, and even a meeting facility. Maybe the best thing about the place is just the natural beauty that is found there in abundance.
If you are looking for a side trip it is only a short drive to the Richard B. Russell Dam Overlook. A splendid view of the dam and headwaters of Lake Strom Thurmond (aka Clark Hill Lake) await you there. If you like breathtaking scenery you need to go take a look. There is a fishing pier and boat ramp as well if you are so inclined. To get there from the park just follow Highway 81 back into Calhoun Falls and continue on 81 South until you see the sign on the right.
These are just a couple of places within an hour’s drive of Athens which we think are special. There are plenty of others nearby. Check out Victoria Bryant State Park just outside Franklin Springs, and Elijah Clark State Park close to Lincolnton. Both these offer their own brand of outdoor atmosphere and tranquility. For more information on the state parks of Georgia you can go to www.gastateparks.org and look for the one that suits your needs best. Don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you need more information or details.
Don’t hesitate to try this glorious way of getting away from the bustle of everyday life. Start making plans to get your family out of the house and into the great outdoors.
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