Tight finances don’t mean you have to give up a spring break vacation.  Families that plan ahead can take advantage of affordable accommodations located throughout Georgia’s 48 state parks.  For about $24 per night, you can pitch a tent under the stars and toast marshmallows by a cozy campfire.  All of our campgrounds have bathhouses with hot showers, and some even have laundry facilities.

Want more comforts?  Fully equipped cottages with up to three bedrooms average around $100 to $140 per night, depending on park location.  Save money by cooking your own meals in your private kitchen.  Finally, those who prefer hotel-style accommodations can still wake up surrounded by beautiful park scenery.  Lodges with restaurants can be found at Amicalola Falls, Red Top Mountain, George T. Bagby, Little Ocmulgee and Unicoi state parks.  Lodge rates begin at $69.

State parks are like mini-resorts, with a wide range of amenities such as nature trails, playgrounds, fishing docks, ranger programs, disc golf and more.  Keep in mind that accommodations book quickly during spring break and summer, so reservations should be made in advance.  Call 1-800-864-7275 or www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/springbreak.

MARCH CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Spring is a wonderful time to take advantage of the multitude of events happening at the parks.  From wildflower hikes and bird watching to canoe trips and flyfishing clinics, there is sure to be something for everyone. Below is the March 2010 Event Calendar.  For an online calendar listing, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/events.  You can also become a fan on  Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

NORTHERN GEORGIA

Tallulah Stairs Camp

Wednesdays, March 10, 17, 24, 31, 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.

Fridays, March 5, 12, 19, 26, 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls

Join us in climbing the staircase inside this beautiful gorge. You’ll stay in shape and get a little extra energy during the winter months. Bring lots of water, comfortable hiking shoes and shower supplies. Participants will have access to showers for cleaning up before you go to work. Register in advance. $30 for the two-month program. Free parking on Wednesdays. $5 parking. (706) 754-7981.

Better Bird Watching

Saturday, March 13, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls

Join Joe LaFleur as he teaches us about the most common birds found in the area. The event will begin with audiovisual program, then participants will take a leisurely walk outside to view the birds first hand. Both experienced and novice birders are welcome. Don’t forget binoculars. $5 parking. (706) 754-7981.

Flies and Fly Water

Saturday, March 13, 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Smithgall Woods Conservation Park – Helen

In preparation for the upcoming spring fishing season, we will have a show and tell, helpful hints, and “how to” on fly tying, stream reading, casting and more. Hear a presentation on Stream Entomology (aka stream critters) by Wildlife Interpretive Specialist Sheila Humphrey. Register in advance. $5 plus $5 parking. (706) 878-3087.


Sticks for Kids

Saturday, March 13 and 27, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Victoria Bryant State Park – Royston

Kids 7 to 14 can learn the game of golf at the park’s course, Highland Walk. Lesson will be taught by the PGA Head Professional/Manager Karl Gross. Clubs provided. Meet at the Golf Course Pro Shop at 2:45 sharp. Register in advance. (706) 245-6770.

Astronomy Night at Unicoi

Saturday, March 20, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Unicoi State Park and Lodge – Helen

The Atlanta Astronomy Club will conduct a slide show and lecture to help novice stargazers learn about the winter sky. Weather permitting, we will have telescopes set up to enjoy a “sidewalk stargazing” program. Feel free to bring your own telescope, lawnchairs or blankets, and flashlights with red bulbs. $5 parking. 800-573-9659 ext. 305.


Fort Yargo Colonial Market Faire

Saturday, March 20 through Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Fort Yargo State Park – Winder

This 18th century living history event will feature persons dressed in 18th century fashion, proprietors of fine wares and provisions, tradesmen, and artisans. Adults $2, Children 12 and under free. $5 parking. (770) 867-3489.


Fly a Kite in the Buck Shoals Sky

Saturday, March 20, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Smithgall Woods Conservation Park – Helen

A short lecture on weather will be given and then participants can bring their kite to fly in the open space of Buck Shoals. $5 parking. (706) 878-3087.

Full Moon Suspension Bridge Hike

Tuesday, March 30, 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls

Join Tallulah Rangers on a moonlit hike down into the gorge. Register in advance. $5 plus $5 parking. (706) 754-7981.

COASTAL GEORGIA

Scottish Heritage Day Encampment

Saturday, March 20, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Fort King George Historic Site – Darien

A variety of living history demonstrations portraying colonial and particularly Scottish culture will be featured. A battle re-enactment will take place at 2 p.m. $3.00-$5.00 (912) 437-4770.


GO-pher a Carnival

Saturday, March 20, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Skidaway Island State Park – Savannah

Kids come celebrate the beginning of spring with the whole family and see live animals, ride the hayrides, win prizes with games galore, crazy crafts, food, music, and much more! $5 parking. (912) 598-2300.

Marsh Kayak Trip

Saturday, March 27, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 30, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Crooked River State Park – St. Marys

This moderately strenuous, 3-hour paddle is through the salt marshes around Crooked River. Paddlers will explore sandbars, watch for birds, dolphin and other wildlife while learning about the wonders of the marsh. Participants must be 6 years of age or more and accompanied by a parent or guardian if under 18 years old. Register in advance. $35-$95, depending on number of people, plus $5 parking. (912) 882-5256.

SOUTHERN & CENTRAL GEORGIA

Birdwatching Field Trip & Program

Thursday, March 11, 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Seminole State Park – Donalsonville

Join DVD author Joe LaFleur of Better Birdwatching for a free guided bird walk to practice hands-on bird identification along the nature trail. Beginners are welcome! Mr. LaFleur will also provide a free audiovisual program about birds in the area to help you identify birds by sight and sound. Meet at the Visitor Center. $5 parking. (229) 861-3137 or 888-414-2837.

Become a Better Bird Watcher

Friday, March 12, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site – Warm Springs

Become a better bird watcher. Wildlife biologist and bird enthusiast Joe LaFleur will lead a guided bird walk to practice hands-on bird identification in the surrounding woodland habitat. Beginners are welcome. After the walk, audiovisual program on birds of our area will be presented. $5-$8 plus. (706) 655-5870.


Go Fly A Kite

Saturday, March 13, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Mistletoe State Park – Appling

Take advantage of the March winds to let your creativity soar! In this workshop you’ll build and decorate your own kite. From kids to grandparents, all ages are welcome. Bring your own decorations or use ours. $2 plus supply fee. $5 parking. (706) 541-0321.


Spring in the Park

Saturday, March 20, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Little Ocmulgee State Park – Helena

Catch the fever of spring at the park. Be artistic and enter the kite-decorating contest, plant your very own pot of wildflowers to take home, and compete in the mini-golf tournament. Friends of Little Ocmulgee will be serving lunch. $1-$2, plus $5 parking. (229) 868-7474


Project WET Educator Workshop

Saturday, March 20 through Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

General Coffee State Park – Nicholls

Join us for this exciting workshop and become certified as a Project WET educator. Open to all teachers, scout leaders and non-formal educators. One PLU credit available by request for certified teachers. Fee includes WET curriculum, resources, and lunch. Pre registration is required. Contact park directly to register for this event $20 plus $5 parking. (912) 384-7082.


Volunteer Reception

Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site – Warm Springs

Volunteer opportunities include serving as tour guides, assisting with special programs, working with maintenance personnel and assisting with public relations. A tour of the site will also be offered. (706) 655-5870.

METRO ATLANTA

Rawhide to Leather

Introduction to Flyfishing

Saturday, March 13, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

Join an expert angler and learn about the art of flycasting. Poles will be provided for the class, or anglers can bring their own tackle. In case of inclement weather the class will be held indoors. Pre-registration is required. This class will be limited to 10 participants, class will be geared toward 7 years and up. Meet near the Sweetwater Creek Baitshop. $10 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871.

Backcountry Geology Hike

Saturday, March 13, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

Geologist and Friends member John Johnston will lead a moderate three-mile hike identifying rock types and explaining how they formed. Explore the beautiful Jack’s Branch area and the seldom-visited rock quarry of New Manchester. Meet in the Interpretive Center. $5 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871.

Lost Person Prevention

Saturday, March 13, 10 a.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

Learn simple techniques for not getting lost and keeping track of your family when venturing into the great outdoors of Georgia. Search and Rescue Dog Team will be joining the class. Register in advance. $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Basic Fly Fishing Clinic

Saturday, March 13, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

The two-hour clinic covers equipment, knot tying, casting, safety issues and other tricks of the trade. If time permits participants may stay to catch the “Fish of Fish.” Instructors C. H. Brown and Michael Reilley suggest wearing long pants/shorts and hiking shoes, and bringing snacks, water and sun lotion. Georgia fishing license required. Register in advance. $15 or $12 with own gear. $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Mountain Top Adventure Hike

Sunday, March 14, 2 p.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

These guided hikes depart from Panola’s nature center and are for people in good physical condition. This hike allows visitors to see Panola Mountain up close, as a ranger explains why the mountain is protected and what we can do to preserve granite outcrops. Bring sturdy shoes, water, bug spray and your camera. Rain or shine. Register in advance. $7 plus $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Saturday Mountain Hike

Saturday, March 20, 10 a.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

These guided hikes depart from Panola’s nature center and are for people in good physical condition. This hike allows park visitors to see Panola Mountain up close, as the Ranger explains the reasons Panola Mountain is protected, and what we can all do to preserve the natural beauty of granite outcrops.  Bring sturdy shoes, water, bug spray, and your camera!  The Panola Mountain hike starts at 10am and generally lasts 3-4 hours.  Rain or shine. Call to register in advance. $7 plus $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Hills of Iron

Saturday, March 20, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Red Top Mountain State Park and Lodge – Cartersville

Join us for our annual celebration of the iron industry that gave Red Top Mountain its name. You can take a hayride tour of the iron mine area, pay a visit to a nearby iron furnace, and end the day by creating a piece of unique iron artwork when we smelt iron in our cupola furnace known as “Maryanne.” Fee for iron molds, plus $5 parking. (770) 975-0055.

Artifact Identification Day

Saturday, March 20, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site – Cartersville

A professional archaeologist will be available to date and identify artifacts brought in by visitors. $3.50-$5. (770) 387-3747.

Tree Top Excursions: Introduction Climb

Saturday, March 20, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

Join us “on rope” for an adventure exploring the canopy above. This is an introductory climb to Canopy-Adventure-Research-Educational Technical Tree Climbing (CARE TTC). Participants will use rope and harness for this moderately strenuous activity. Register in advance. $15 plus $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

Sunday, March 21, 2 p.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

With spring just around the corner, the piedmont rolling hills and grass lands will soon be alive with the sound of whooping and squealing as mom and dad get their children’s kits air born. Pleas join us for this family tradition at Panola Mountain’s Alexander Lake Recreational Area. Pleas bring kites, if you do not have one call us. Register in advance. $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Early Spring Wildflower Hike

Sunday, March 21 and 28, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

This 2-mile ranger-led hike will be moderately strenuous and will pass through a variety of wildflower habitats and beautiful areas. Meet in the Interpretive Center. $5 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5876.

Mountain Bike Adventures

Saturday, March 27, 10 a.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

Join the Southern Bicycle League at the Rockdale River Trail parking area by Alexander Lakes for an off-road adventure. This ride will take you to scenic vistas, wetland complexes and pine savannah. Covers most of Panola Mountain’s property; both dirt and paved trails. Meeting at the Alexander Lake Parking Area. We recommend arriving 30 minutes before each program. Register in advance. $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Reptile Show

Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

Join “Reptile Wranglers” Ken Panse and Zack Panse with their alligator, snakes and turtles for this exciting, fascinating, and educational program. $5 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871.

“Ruins to Rapids” Full Moon Hike

Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

This 1.5-mile ranger-led night hike is moderately difficult and goes inside the Civil War-era textile mill ruins of New Manchester and follows the lovely rapids (up to class IV) of Sweetwater Creek. Bring a flashlight and sturdy shoes. No children under 6 or dogs. Meet inside the Visitor Center. Register in advance. $5 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871.


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