Ft. Yargo State Park

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on November 15, 2012.

Autumn is the perfect time for getting out into nature, and we residents of Barrow County can’t forget the treasure that is in our own backyard: Fort Yargo State Park.  At least 400,000 people visit Ft. Yargo every year, and aren’t we lucky to have it so close that we need travel only a few minutes to get there?  It’s located one mile south of Winder on Highway 81.

We love exploring Georgia’s various state parks and outdoor recreation areas, but as the boys grow up, I intend to make sure they feel at home in Ft. Yargo.

I went on one of my first dates with my husband to Ft. Yargo, and even before we had children, we would sometimes go there and hike to the fort, which was tucked away in the back of the park.  Now it has been moved to a more accessible location, and the Ft. Yargo Living History Society has begun fixing up the blockhouse, and according to their website, they will be building a blacksmith’s shop, hunter’s cabin and enlarging the cookhouse.

The last time we went by the fort was on a Saturday, and we were lucky to meet the living history demonstrators. (They are onsite the 3rd Saturday of every month.) The demonstrators, who were in period dress, were heating up the mud oven to bake bread, and there was a pot of venison stew simmering on the stove.  My picky boys weren’t eager to try it.

Back in the day, Fort Yargo was located in the border area between the Creek and Cherokee nation.  According to the Georgia State Parks website, “The state of Georgia contracted with the Humphrey brothers to build a string of four forts across north Georgia to protect white settlers from Indians.”  Fort Yargo was one of them.

According to roadsidegeorgia.com, “The western push of settlers from the Georgia coast had slowed during the Revolutionary War, but not long after the war ended, settlers once again began to encroach on Creek land. Near the Creek town of Snodon settlers created tiny Jug Handle, essentially a tavern and inn at the intersection of a heavily traveled north-south Indian Trading Path and an east-west trading route.  To protect the settlers from the Creek Indians, Fort Yargo was built in 1792 by a Virginia settler…Captain Joseph Humphries.”

You can read more about the history and legends associated with Ft. Yargo at the Living History Society’s website: http://www.fylhs.com/history_and_legends_.html.

Today the park encompasses 1,816 acres, and has a beautiful 260-acre man-made lake with fishing, boat ramps, swimming and a beach open during the warmer seasons.  There are 18 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers, and events take place there throughout the year.  Campsites, cottages, and yurts are for rent, and there are at least three playgrounds, picnic shelters, tennis courts, disc golf, basketball and so much more.

Fort Yargo is an oasis in Barrow County, and I’m so thankful to have it nearby. My boys don’t need most of the amenities that it offers, though.  We go there to walk on the paths and sit by the water while they throw rocks and twigs into the lake. I’m not sure there will be any more pebbles left on the shore by the time they grow up.

Another perk to having a state park so close is that my son can easily participate in the Georgia Junior Ranger Program, which is recommended for children ages 6-12. I’ll write about that in my next column.

Go to http://www.gastateparks.org/FortYargo to learn more about the park and plan your visit, but take note that it will be closed to the public on Dec. 4-5 for managed deer hunts.

What is your favorite state park?

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