Story from Lake Living Spring 2020
Take a getaway to Richard B. Russell State Park
By Gary Jones
The location may be a little off the beaten path, but this just might the perfect time to retreat to such a place.
With certain restrictions in place to protect the public, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Georgia State Park system are open for a variety of family recreational opportunities.
One of the great treasures of that system is in Elbert County, where Richard B. Russell State Park has, among many other attractions, 27 camping sites with electricity and water hook-ups and 20 cabins on the shore of Lake Russell.
“Those camping sites are definitely the most popular thing we have,” said Richard B. Russell State Park Manager Clint Rouse. “We wish we had more camping sites. We could flat fill’em up.”
The campsites have an occupancy rate of about 45-to-50 percent year-round, Rouse said, but he points out that during certain times of the year, the campsites are filled to capacity.
“Around the holidays there are waiting lists,” he said. “Halloween, Fourth of July, Labor Day — those weekends around those holidays the park fills up with camping and the cabins are full.”
There is, for some weekends, a signup period of 13 months to reserve campsites and cabins.
“Our cabins are easily the highest occupied cabins in the state park system,” Rouse said.
Why is Richard B. Russell State Park so popular?
There are several reasons, according to Rouse.
“You have the summer holidays when the park is very popular, but it starts in spring with the fishing,” he said. “We get a lot of people here from within a 50-mile radius. We have a good repeat clientele base.”
But springtime fishing is only a part of the story as far as the state park is concerned.
The park’s rowing center, established prior to the 1996 Olympic Games, has become a go-to site for rowing teams at colleges and universities in the northeast United States. In January and February, it is likely the cabins will fill up with rowers on collegiate rowing teams from up north.
When Rouse became Russell’s park manager in 2015, he did away with restricted golf packages. In the past, there were only designated times of the year golfers could rent cabins and play golf for extended periods of time. So, year-round, the cabins are available for special “golf-package” pricing.
“When they canceled the Masters, it really hurt us this year,” Rouse said, noting that golf traffic at the park picks up dramatically leading up to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta.
While fishing is the main attraction in the spring (and golf picks up dramatically), there are many things campers can do in the park.
The park has very popular walking trails. In addition to the cabins and campgrounds, there is the added attraction of a “mega” boat ramp and a ramp where the rowers can enter the lake.
The Walter McNeely Pavilion is an excellent meeting place for large groups (somewhat limited now because of COVID-19).
There is a disc golf course that is well-maintained and is the site for many competitive disc golf tournaments throughout the year.
There is also a beach area that is quite popular in the warm summer months.
Lake Russell, on Georgia’s northeastern border with South Carolina, covers 26,650 acres and provides some of the state’s finest boating and fishing. Richard B. Russell State Park has 20 cabins and 27 camping sites near the water’s edge.
The park itself covers 2,500 acres and the cabins and campsites all have water, electricity, cable television hookups and wi-fi. The Walter McNeely Pavilion seats 150 people, and there are three other picnic shelters at the park.
The Arrowhead Pointe Golf Course has a restaurant, but with the COVID-19 pandemic access to the restaurant has limitations.
The phone number at the park is 706-213-2045 and for golf tee times at Arrowhead, the phone number is 706-283-6000.
Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made by calling 1-800-864-7275.