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Camping in Georgia State Parks

Sonal Panse
Going camping in Georgia's state parks is a great way of unwinding for the weekend, or for taking a longer, relaxed holiday. Here's what you should know.
Known as the Peach State and the Empire State of the South, Georgia lies in the southern part of the United States, and has plenty of natural scenery and spots of historic importance.
Georgia, which was the fourth state to join the American Union in 1788, seceded in 1861 to join the Confederacy, suffered heavy losses and much devastation during the American Civil War, and rejoined the American Union in 1870.
Georgia's first state-operated public park was the Indian Springs State Park, which has been open to the public since 1825. The Indian Springs State Park, together with the Vogel State Park, formed the basis of the Georgia State Park system, which was established in 1931.
Now all the public parks located in Georgia state come under the Georgia State Park system, and park operations are managed by the Georgia Department of Parks and Recreation.

Visiting Georgia State Parks

1. All visitors to Georgia State Parks are required to pay a parking fee. The funds obtained from these parking fees go towards park maintenance.
Instead of paying the parking fee every time you visit, especially if you are a frequent visitor, you can buy an Annual ParkPass. Annual ParkPasses are available at all the State Park offices, and can also be obtained online from the state park websites.
2. Senior citizens, veterans, and disabled veterans can obtain discounts up to 25% to 50% on the parking fee and the Annual ParkPass.
If you belong to this group and purchase your pass online, you will have to pay the whole amount; when you arrive at the park, and have shown a valid identification―driver's license will do―verifying your age and/or veteran status, you will be reimbursed for your discount.
3. If you are making reservations for the weekend, you need to book for two nights minimum. It's three nights minimum booking on public holidays like Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day.
4. When you make your booking, you must pay a deposit that is equal to the amount required for making a minimum booking. If you want to cancel your booking, cancel three days prior to arrival. You will be refunded all your money except for $10 for the cancellation handling fee.
Keep in mind that you won't be refunded if you decide to cut your visit short and leave before the two days minimum duration.

Camping Rules

Since the main intention of Georgia State Parks is to protect the park natural resources and not cater to the whims of tourists and visitors, they have the following rules outlined for camping and campers.
  • Each campsite can be occupied by only six people. And once all campsites have reached their occupancy limits, entry is closed for other campers.
  • Each campsite has designated tent pads, and the tents must be set up only on these. Tents set up elsewhere will be removed.
  • Each campsite has been established for a reason―camping. Which means you are not expected and allowed to set up camp elsewhere. No, definitely not mid-way between two campsites. If you go on a long hike and want to camp overnight along the trail, you need to get a special permit beforehand.
  • You can camp only for 14 consecutive days at each state park. If you want to camp longer than that, you must leave the park for 3 days and then come back.
  • You cannot bring more than three vehicles per group. Inquire about this at the state park office before visiting.
There is plenty to do at Georgia State Parks. Inquire before visiting about the timings for recreational activities, and about which activities are free and which require a fee.
Most parks have children's playgrounds, and you can participate in recreational activities like golf, disc golf, tennis, and volleyball. You can go horse-back riding, biking (only on designated bike trails and on paved roads), picnicking, and bird-watching.
If it's life on the water that appeals to you, there's fishing, boating, water-skiing, sailing, and swimming. There is no fee for fishing, but you need a valid Georgia resident/non-resident fishing license if you are 16 or older. If you plan on fishing in streams, you will need to get trout stamps.
Call the state park office for information regarding this ahead of your visit. For fishing, many state parks offer equipment on loan for no charge, but you have to buy your own bait.