Cool off at Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park

Lake Living - Summer 2018

Want something cool to do when temperatures soar this summer?

The Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park near Toccoa has at least a couple of solutions.

The first option is almost three miles of walking trails that wind their way through hardwood forests, glades filled with ferns and soothing sights and sounds of the Tugaloo River. And, the walks will definitely provide a cooler setting even if the sun’s out and blazing because most of the trails are covered in shade.

“Oh, it can be 90 degrees up at the park entrance and down here in the shade along the riverbank it will be six or eight degrees cooler,” park caretaker Larry Wiese said. “It can be 90 up there and 84 down here in the summer. If I’m working out during the day, I’ll come down here in the shade to cool off.”

The trails are filled with a variety of vegetation and include some resting areas and picnic tables.

Some of Wiese’s favorite spots include a grove of sycamore trees, a stretch of trail where ferns grow in prolific number—a place he refers to as Fern Valley—and a trio of benches that sit on the banks of the river.

“It’s so quiet down here I named one of the bench sites Peace and another Serenity,” Wiese said.

The third bench site is named Scott’s Shoals because it overlooks a shallow portion of the river that was used as a ford before the river was dammed by Hartwell Dam in the late 1950s.

Wiese is especially fond of the Serenity bench site.

When he escorts school groups through the park, he always stops there to tell students that the Eastern Continental Divide is just a few steps away.

“Literally just a few steps away you can stand on a spot where if rain falls on one side of the divide it will run off into the Tugaloo River and into the Atlantic Ocean and if it falls on the other, it will eventually find its way to the Soque River, then the Chattahoochee River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico,” Wiese said.

If walking the nature trails isn’t your desire, you can cool off by paddling a stretch of the river.

The park now has canoes and kayaks for rent and several suggestions on where to paddle.

Rental rates are $40 per day or $30 per day if renting two or more vessels. You can reserve one by calling 706-282-7636 or going online to

Available at the park – and at other locations in the community including the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center – are brochures detailing the kayaking possibilities on the Tugaloo Corridor of which the park is a part.

The corridor comprises the only remaining untamed portion of the Tugaloo River and extends 10 miles from Panther Creek and the Yonah Dam area to Broken Bridges at Highway 123.

Some of the paddling opportunities include a 3.3-mile stretch on Lake Yonah from Yonah Dam to Tugaloo Dam, a 20-minute trip from Yonah Dam Park to The Island where there are some primitive camping sites and a 1.8 mile stretch from Yonah Dam Park to the Walker Creek Boat Ramp.

A favorite canoe/kayak trip is up Longnose Creek on the South Carolina side of the river.

A half-mile paddle brings paddlers to beautiful Longnose Waterfall and the creek also boasts the ruins of an old grist mill built around 1800.

The only drawback is access to the falls is only by boat when the lake water level is at full pool.

This story comes from our free publication, Lake Living Magazine

Northeast Georgian

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