My husband and son turned into explorers as soon as we hit the trails at Crooked River State Park in St. Marys.
Each grabbed a walking stick as high as his waist and began to march bravely into the forest. They kept their eyes wide, watching for tracks on the ground, listening for any sign of wildlife hiding nearby. I suppose the baby and I, crashing along with the jogging stroller behind them, cramped their style a little, but we also were having a blast! My daughter kicked her little legs and hummed songs the whole time, so excited to be out on an adventure.
Spanning over 500 acres and including three distinct forests, Crooked River is an ideal destination for a family hike. They have shorter trails, like their half mile Nature Trail that we took, for younger children that can’t handle longer distances. Even this short hike was full of adventures: we saw the marsh up close, not to mention beautiful old trees and many species of birds. My son and I spotted a number of deer tracks, and we felt like we had the woods to ourselves, barely running into anyone during our adventure.
Crooked River also has longer trails, like the 1.5-mile Palmetto Trail, which takes you deep into a forest of south Georgia’s Pine Flatwoods, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
At the Park Office, you can pick up a brochure about the trail you choose to hike, and it will show you diagrams of the plants and animal tracks to be on the lookout for. The park is home to white tailed deer, feral hogs, bobcats and others.
They also have a cleared area with covered picnic tables, a playground and restrooms. There are numerous kayaking trails, a boat ramp and saltwater fishing. And, if you’d like to play miniature golf, they even have a small 18-hole course, open year round. You just pay $3 per-person at the park office to rent your equipment.
They also offer camping facilities on site, including space for RVs, trailers and tents as well as cabins they rent out. There is a Nature Center, too, where they have special events and live animal exhibits.
We stuck with the hiking trails and then went to the open area near the entrance, where we had a little picnic and let the kids play on the playground. We could see how Crooked River would be a lot of fun for years to come, both now, and when our children are old enough to hike longer distances and to go kayaking with us.
For More Information:
Where: 6222 Charlie Smith Sr. Hwy., St. Marys, GA
Cost: Entry fee is $5 per car each day, or you can get an annual pass for $50. Seniors’ annual pass is $25.
Contact: Call 1-800-864-7275
For more information about hiking trails in Crooked River State Park and a detailed map, go to: http://www.gastateparks.org/CrookedRiver-Hiking