Georgia Veterans State Park is a state park located in Crawfordville, Georgia. The park was built on land donated by the city and county for use as a memorial to all veterans of World Wars I and II. It opened to the public on November 11, 2007, and has been operated since then by the nonprofit organization “Friends of Georgia Veterans” with assistance from the staff at Fort McAllister. Georgia Veterans State Park features two lakes (Hawk Lake and Little Red Top Lake), camping facilities, cabins, group campsites, an activity center, picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming beach, boat dock, fishing pier, and a museum.
The park’s visitor center houses exhibits about the history of Camp Lawton-Johnson, the camp where many members of the military who fought in World War II were stationed, including several Medal of Honor recipients. A portion of the park also includes the site of Camp Shanks, the former home of General George S. Patton Jr., which was later occupied by his son, Lieutenant Colonel George R. Patton III. On May 29, 2011, the park suffered severe damage resulting from a tornado that struck the area. Damage included uprooting trees, breaking windows, and destroying the park’s main entrance. In September 2012, volunteers began repairing the park, using materials taken from around the camp sites to build temporary shelters, fences, and pathways. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, rowboats, and pedal boats are available to rent.
There is a boat ramp providing access to the lake. Visitors can also walk through the campground and cabin complex. The park offers three trails for hiking; one runs along the shores of Hawk Lake, while another goes across Big Pond. The third trail starts near the park office and makes its way through the woods to Peachtree Creek. All three trails have varying degrees of difficulty. Hikers may stay at one of four designated backcountry campsites or hike any trail overnight. Hawks Nest Trail is 1.5 miles long and travels through forest and marshland. It begins near the parking lot and ends at the edge of Big Pond. This trail passes by the remains of Camp Shanks and winds its way through dense vegetation. Hardwood forests surround the pond. The 0.75 mile Nature Trail follows a wooded path past the remains of Camp Shanks and leads to a boardwalk out into the wetland area behind the camp. The Boardwalk Trail is made up of wooden planks embedded into the ground and extends out into Peachtree Creek. It is 2.5 miles long and generally stays close to the riverbank except when crossing over small bridges.
The park has seven picnic areas, ranging from open grassy areas to covered pavilions. Four of these picnic areas include charcoal grills and drinking water. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park in open areas. Two large oak trees provide shade near the activity center. The park has ten cabins, six facing Hawk Lake and four facing Little Red Top Lake. Each cabin sleeps eight people in two bedrooms. One bedroom contains a full size bed, dresser, table, chairs, electric heat and lights. The other bedroom contains twin beds, night stand, chair, table, and radio/TV. Outside of each cabin is a fire ring and picnic table. Toilets and showers are nearby. Waterfowl Cove is a small cove just outside the park boundary, accessible via a footpath through the woods. It provides shelter for canoeists heading downriver toward the lower end of the lake. Hawk Point is a peninsula jutting out into Hawk Lake, south of the activity center. It provides a good view of the entire lake and surrounding shoreline. Accessible only by boat, it is not recommended for visitors without prior sailing experience.
Sailboating lessons and rentals are provided during part of the year. The park has a boat dock capable of holding 40-50 boats. Boat slips are available to rent seasonally. Fishing opportunities concentrate on bass, crappie, catfish, bream, perch, and pickerel. An easy to moderate trail system allows hikers to travel anywhere within the park. Easy trails start off near the activity center and make their way through lightly wooded terrain. More difficult trails begin near the nature center and climb steep hills before descending into heavily shaded glades. The park has four separate picnic areas, each with its own unique setting. Wooded Glen accommodates groups up to 50 people and has both primitive and semi-modern campsites. Located near the upper end of the lake, this area is mostly level with gentle hills dropping away from the west face of Bald Mountain.
The West Hill Area is a popular location for family outings due to its proximity to the activity center and playground. Here, there are no restroom facilities and little shade, so those traveling with children should bring mosquito repellent. The East Hill Area is a bit drier than the rest of the park, but still quite moist. This area has modern restrooms and shower facilities, and some campsites share a common kitchen grill. The Lower Meadow area is the most remote and least visited section of the park. It is accessed via a half mile trail running east from the West Hill Area. The meadow sits adjacent to Peachtree Creek and is surrounded by hardwoods.
The park has 10 cabins, 6 facing Hawk Lake and 4 facing Little Red Top Lake. Each cabin sleeps 8 people in 2 bedrooms. One bedroom contains a full size bed, dresser, table, chairs, electric heat and lights. The other bedroom contains twin beds, night stand, chair, table, and radio/TV. Outside of each cabin is a fire ring and picnic table. Toilets and showers are within walking distance from the cabins. Fish & Wildlife Area is a short drive north of the park, but separated by private property. Both FWA and GVSP operate under special use permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allowing non-profit organizations like Friends of Georgia Veterans to manage the parks’ day-to-day operations. The FWA consists of approximately 3,400 acres situated between the Chattahoochee River and Lake Burton.
The primary mission of the area is flood control, although recreational development at the park-like facility is allowed. The park has five trails covering various aspects of military history. Easy trails pass by the activity center and lead to the ruins of Camp Shanks. Another easy trail leads from the activity center to the top of Bald Mountain. Moderately difficult trails ascend Long Mountain and skirt the edges of Lake Burton. Hard trails scale the slopes of Glass Mountain and traverse the length of the lake. The park has four picnic areas, spaced roughly equally apart, offering a variety of settings and amenities. Wooded Glen accommodates groups up to 50 people and has both primitive and semi-modern campsites. Located near the upper end of the lake, this area is mostly level with gentle hills dropping away from the west face of Bald Mountain.
Hawk Lake is used for:
- motorized boating
- water skiing