Indian Springs State Park is the Oldest State Park in Georgia and it Shows.
There are old oak trees and a lazy creek that falls slowly over stones that were there when the Creek Nation inhabited the lands. The park is old and beautiful. As you pull into the entrance, to the left, you see the water tumbling down the rocks with a picturesque view of an old bridge in the background. In front of you there is a lush, tree lined, lawn with a creek running behind. You might glimpse a picnicking family throwing a foot ball or children chasing one another. People grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on the park provided grills while pet dogs run along side their owners.
What did we see?
We were really lucky and had the pleasure of seeing one guy with his pet snake wrapped around his torso. Why would you bring your pet snake to the park?
People are fascinating!
Old stone buildings that were built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps are standing as strong reminders of the labors who built them. As you curve up this shaded road towards the visitor center you can’t help but love the southern charm of the park. At the top of the hill is the visitor center, which is an old white house. You either turn left to enter the visitor center and museum or right for everything else. There is a beach, dock and boat ramp, a play ground, putt-putt course, cottages, and camp ground. Back towards the entrance is the Spring House for the natural spring and the slow moving falls.
Most of this park is still beautiful but a few aspects of this park needs some tender loving care and an overhaul. Which is what it is getting!
At the time of this writing June, 2017 Indian Springs State Park was working on the lake and the dam and all fishing, swimming, kayaking, and aquacycle was prohibited. Always visit the state park’s website to see if there are any warnings or closures before heading there.
Our Camping Experience:
We came into the park through Jackson, Georgia down Hwy 16 If you are a fan of the Netflix Original show “Stranger Things” you will want to note that Jackson square was used for filming. Make sure you pay attention to all the old houses in the area, some are beautiful! We even saw a house that had it’s Christmas Tree up in the window still with lights on.. IN JUNE! The best thing I saw on way into the town was this water tower!
Checking in was Confusing and Irritating.
Shane and I arrived at 6:30 PM to find the visitor center closed. We looked around for a on duty ranger but no one was to be found. 5 O’clock comes and “dem bitches be gone.” We looked around the porch for some sign of how to check in and couldn’t find anything indicating what we were suppose to do. I pull up the website and start reading to find zero information on what to do if the visitor center is closed. The site does state that you can check in as late as 10pm, but where?
For 20 minutes we wandered around, asked campers, looked for clipboards or signs and drove back and forth between the visitor center and campground. Finally, Shane spots an information board directing us to see the camp host in plot 62. No one was home but there was a note, “if not here see camp host in plot 29“. Shane, at that point, was crabby as I sat in the cool car happily playing Bubble Witch Saga on my phone. At plot 29 we were greeted by Angie who said, “well, alright, go register in the morning at the visitor center” Shane got into the car and stated, “well that was about worthless!”
Lesson learned: Every park’s check in is different. If no one is on duty when you arrive, look around for signs and read them! The next morning, the host from plot 62 came by said, “good morning, go check in at the visitor center before 10am“. Yup talking to Angie was about worthless.
The Healing Waters
Before this was a state park the land belonged to the Creek Indian Nation. The park was signed over by Chief McIntosh in 1821 and 1825 to the Government. I won’t go into the history of all this, my opinion is that the Creek Indians were done very wrong and Chief McIntosh “got his due”. Curious? Read about it here and here.
The tribe visited the area to bathe and collect the “healing water” of the natural springs, thus giving the name to the park. There are several springs within the park, but the most known and used is within the spring house, near the entrance of the park. This where the Indian Springs mineral water is delivered. This pump looks kind of looks run down and dirty. There is an (oh not so beautiful) PVC pipe sticking out of the stone that drips the water onto the floor of the pump house. The dome covering the natural spring is plastic that has been scratched and is dirty making it difficult to see down in the hole where the natural spring comes out. I am not even certain why it needs to be covered as such. The water smells straight up like sulfur (rotten eggs) and tastes like rock when drank. Even still, this doesn’t stop people from coming from miles around to fill up their jugs. Locals say that the smell goes away after two days and they use the water in local products such as jams and soaps. You can taste the pungent water straight out of the fountain or head up to the visitor center where they have it chilled and in a much more pleasant looking pitcher. There are 12 different minerals found in the water and there is a small sign that tells you the chemical compound of the water at the spring.
Check out the museum in the park for a history lesson on the Creek Indians in the area. Right outside the park is the Indian Spring Hotel and Museum. Built by Chief McIntosh in 1823 and is the only known antebellum mineral springs hotel in Georgia still standing. Once you have learned about the Native American’s that lived here, come back to visit the park during the fall when they host the 28th Annual India Springs Festival and PowWow
Okay here’s the skinny on the old cemetery that resides within the parks boundaries. If you turn right at the top of the hill from the entrance and go past “Swimming Area Road” there is a VERY old grave site to your left. These graves date back to the 1880’s and at least one confederate solider is buried there. But the wonderful thing about these graves is that even though they are over 130 years old, someone visited their family’s graves in the recent past because a few had sun bleached flower arrangements on the headstones. The poor cemetery is in disarray. The stones are smashed, the slabs are broken from the sink-in effect, the little fence that surrounds one families plot is lying on the ground and over taken by weeds. It is just sad sad sad. But who is responsible? It amazes me the legal system in the U.S. I found an article from 2014 that Friends of Indian Springs State Park finally got the go ahead to begin overhauling the grounds and here we are three years later and it still looks as if no one has gotten a thing accomplished. I hope they are still working towards this and making progress. The State Park system cannot update this old place because of the cost. We walked around the grave yard trying to read the headstone but many of them are not discernible. I snapped several photos using the “live” feature on my phone and as I was viewing them I saw this…
(Note we were out there alone and the road was to my back) Any thoughts on what it is?
Hiking the Trails
Indian Springs trail system is minuscule. A 3/4 mile nature trail and a 3.25 mile trail, leading to Dauset Trails Nature Center, is all there is. This is plenty for us, but if you want a real hike head over to Dauset Trails were there are 25 miles! (don’t get lost). Dauset Trails is not part of the state park system. It is privately owned wildlife preservation. You can read about it by clicking here.
The map above has been highlighted to show you the trail as it starts at the park entrance and continues to Dauset Trails. The Spring House is circled in purple on the right side of map. As you can see McIntosh Lake, beach, boat ramp, and dock are closed until 2018 for renovations. The X on the upper left side of the map is our camp site and the red dot is where we took the photos below.
Cooling Off in the Springs
One of the best things to do at ISSP is to climb on the rocks and play in the stream. My mama and dad used to take my siblings and me down there in the summers to play in the park. I too have taken my kiddos down there when they were growing up. The rocks get crowded in the late afternoon but in the morning it is pretty deserted. Go early and leave when the crazies arrive. The rocks get slippery and hot so you may want to take some swim shoes. When we were there the water level was pretty low, but it didn’t stop people from sitting the pools that are created from the downward pull of the creek.
The Village at Indian Springs
Another thing to do on a hot humid day is to eat ice cream and shop in neat little (and air conditioned) country stores. This brings me to The Village at Indian Springs. This village deserves it’s own blog entry and I will be adding it over the next few days, so head back to read about this wonderful little place!
Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!