It’s one of those places we’ve passed countless times, and every time, I’ve vaguely thought, “We should check that out.”
And yesterday, we finally did.
It’s a Georgia state park, Sweetwater Creek State Park, about 20 miles west of Atlanta. The entrance is ten minutes off of I-20, so yes, it’s very convenient on that Birmingham-Atlanta run, which we made yesterday.
We arrived at the park at 4, which gave us three good hours to enjoy it. We weren’t super prepared – should have had swimsuits and towels in the car – but we made do.
The heart of the park is a ruined mill. The visitor’s center has an excellent display about the history of the mill, as well as the natural features of the park itself.
The mill was a textile mill built in the 1840’s, and a community of about 300 developed around it. When the war started, it was taken over for the making of fabric for Confederate uniforms, and since the men mostly went to fight, was operated by women.
In 1864, when Sherman’s March pushed through the area, the mill was burned and all the women and children in the area were captured as prisoners of war, taken to Louisville, and told they would be released if they promised not to go south of the Ohio River for the duration of the war. If not, they were just kept as prisoners.
The mill was never rebuilt and the area never resettled, so today we have a state park with a rapid-filled creek and rather haunting ruins.
We walked the Red Trail, which runs along the creek – it gets very, very rocky at times, so if you are unsteady on your feet at all, don’t take it past the mill. We took it to the falls, then caught the White Trail and looped back around.
I am not a huge fan of kids playing in rapids with sharp rocks, but it was evidently the thing to do, and my son is very careful, so I let him have at it. I was more than ready to move on, but he wasn’t, and I was wondering how I was ever going to get him out of there when he returned to me from his island conquest in the middle of the creek with as much hustle in his step as he could muster.
Out there, in a crevice in one of the rocks above a relatively calm spot, he’d seen – he claims, almost stepped on – a cottonmouth (also known as a Water Moccasin.) He was excited about the sighting, but, you know, also really ready to come out of the water.
I guess that’ll do it.
All in all, a great find – so glad we finally stopped, and I hope it won’t be the last time. It was the usual mix (not kidding) of Atlanta-area residents on the trails and in the water – white, African-American, Hispanic, families with women in saris, families with women in hijab….yes, indeed, this New South is a great-looking bunch.
It looks like they have a very full slate of interesting activities, so we’ll try to hit on of those special hikes, for sure!
(Update: Thanks to a commenter who mentioned that this is one of the Hunger Games filming sights.)