Overview - The Tribe's Favorite Park
Mountain State Park is located near Chatsworth, Georgia on
the Southwestern edge of the Cohutta Wilderness. This park is
the Richardson Tribe's #1 favorite place to visit and camp, Why?
Where do I start?
Fort Mountain (Cohutta to the Native Americans) is perhaps the
most easily accessed mountain in North Georgia. It's about 1.5
hours from Atlanta and just a little over an hour from
Chattanooga. All but the last eight miles is flat freeway and
highway travel. The final segment is curvy, steep, and scenic.
There are several picturesque pull-offs that should be observed
on the way.
As you wind your way up the mountain, roll your windows down so
you can enjoy the gradual temperature and humidity change.
Typically, from the base of the mountain to the park, there can
be as much as a 10-12 degree change. The dramatic temperature
change can affect the weather on Fort Mountain, often making it
totally different from the mountain's base (as in rain, snow, or
Georgia's standards for its state parks are high, especially
when it comes to campgrounds. Fort Mountain State Park has two
campgrounds. One is located adjacent the lake, the other is just
across the road. The sites are level, extremely large, clean,
and furnished with fire ring/grill units and sturdy picnic
tables. If we can't get a site on the lake, we usually go over
to campground 2 and use the very large pull-through sites. The
ONLY negative I can think of is the lack of full hookup (as in
sewer), but that's pretty standard for state park (with very few
exceptions). They have cable there, but channels are few and
picture quality is sub-par. It doesn't matter, you should be
outside enjoying the fresh clean air anyway.
Fort Mountain State Park seems to have all the right stuff.
There is a lake with a very nice (sometimes crowded) beach, row
boats, pedal boats, and some good fishing. Near the beach's
snack bar and picnic shelters is a miniature golf course and a
very nice playground. The park features 14 miles of hiking and
27 miles of mountain biking within the park. and the
Cohutta Wilderness is directly accessible as is the
Pinhoti Trail making hiking and biking almost unlimited. For
a fee, you can rent a horse at Fort Mountain Stables (a private
4- Wildlife -
You can find just about every type of animal native to this
part of the country at Fort Mountain including bear, turkey,
bobcat, and even (according to some) cougar.
5- History, Mystery, and Legend- Fort Mountain State Park
is the home of much history, mystery, and legend. For example:
- The wall- Located at Fort Mountain's peak are the
remains of an 855 ft wall. Though there are many speculations as
to its origins and its purpose, it is unlikely it was built as a
fortification. While it would help to fend-off enemy attacks,
there is no water source. All the enemy would have to do is sit
and wait. It's more likely the wall was somehow a part of a
ceremonial ground, which is consistent with other sites such as
Old Stone Fort State Park in Manchester Tennessee. Some
speculated the wall was built by Desoto's men, and some think it
was built by Welsh Prince Madoc's men. The fact is, no one knows
for sure, although the estimate the wall's construction to be
- Cherokee Gold - There are legends related to a secret
Cherokee gold mine on "Cohutta", the Native American
name for the
mountain. Stories about the local Cherokee wearing gold jewelry,
and settlers trying to find the source of the gold have been handed down
through generations. One has to consider the wealth of some of the local
Cherokee such as
Joseph Vann. Vann's father accumulated massive wealth while
living near the foot of the mountain. They say his father made
the money from taverns and various other enterprises, but when
his son was forced to move from this area to Tennessee, he
deposited over $200,000 worth of gold in a bank. That's $200,000
in the 1830s, think about it.
Gold Mine - Apparently, placer gold had been successfully
panned from the creeks on Fort Mountain for many years before
the Cohutta Mine opened around 1905. According to the United
States Geological Survey, a large vein of gold had been
discovered and was being worked when they visited in 1906. In
fact, the owners had ordered additional equipment and were
stepping-up production. Mysteriously, four years later when the
same surveyors visited the site, the mine was shut-down. In 1926
the property was purchased by wealthy businessman (and later
Atlanta Mayor) Ivan Allen, then donated to the state of Georgia
as a state park. So, the mystery of the Cohutta Mine exists
today. Where was it? Why was it shut down? Is there still gold
to be panned? I believe there is.
Scroll down for numerous adventure journals and photographs.
Entry Date: May 2013
Spring in the Chattahoochee National Forest produces
colorful spectacles and cool crisp days like none other. We
know this from experience, so we once again found ourselves
at Fort Mountain State Park on this fine May weekend.
Fort Mountain is very conveniently located in North Georgia
between Atlanta and Chattanooga, so getting up there for
just a couple of days is as easy as pie. On this trip, we
decided to take our canoes along so we could enjoy the
scenery from the water as well as the trails. Fort Mountain
provides rental boats and canoes, but we like to have ours
available right up until sundown.
were lucky and managed to find a really great campsite very near
the lake. From here, we could easily carry the canoes directly
to the lake for launching (which we did almost immediately).
Fortunately, I had remembered to pick up some red worms for
fishing. They were Canadian, and they were massive. Heath caught
a small bass almost immediately, but then our fishing luck
waned. It's ok, we had a lot of fun on the canoes.
We were pleased to see that they have done some work updating
playground with lots of new mulch. It never ceases to amaze me
how our kids, even 13-year-old Lee Thomas, still love
playgrounds. They enjoyed the rock wall and monkey bars
It's fun to paddle to the playground and back from the campsite,
but the walk is entertaining as well. As usual, we took our walk
around the lake admiring the fresh green leaves and colorful
flowers. There is one area along the lake we call Butterfly Bog.
Typically this area is covered with the colorful flying bugs
flittering all around. This time, the kids noticed hundreds,
maybe thousands of tadpoles in the water. This kept them
entertained for quite a long while.
In summary, it was once again a near-perfect visit to Fort
Mountain State Park. We had some rain clouds and a few rumblings
of thunder, but we dodged the bullet and had a wonderful time.
Thanks again to the naturalist, staff, and other volunteers.
You're doing a wonderful job maintaining and managing the park!
Entry Date: August 2012
We have visited Fort Mountain twice this month, so I
guess I can make single journal entry for both weekends.
Fort mountain's altitude is especially inviting this time of
year because of the oppressive heat and humidity in the
valleys. In the south, we call these the "Dog Days" of
summer. Fort Mountain State Park is a great escape from Dog
On each of the two weekends we visited Fort Mountain during
the month of August, we took a stroll around the lake. The
lake path at Fort Mountain State Park is always beautiful,
but each visit offers something different to see, hear, and
smell. There always seems to be new flowers blooming, or
leaves changing, or, in the case of this past weekend, fungi! As we walked along the path this time, we were
watching for deer (and bear), reading the informative
plaques that identify many of the species of plant, and
photographing the picturesque view of the lake. Then one of
the kids noticed a colorful mushroom. Then another, and
another. Soon, it was a mushroom quest. We saw dozens of
sizes, shapes, and colors of the neat little fungi (see
photos to the right). It was an unexpected surprise that we
talked about well into the evening. Note: When visiting a
park, please leave all wildlife and vegetation just as you
found it so that others may also enjoy its beauty.
When we returned to the campground, we grilled a bunch of
peppers (from our garden), tomatoes, garlic, and onions,
then combined them into a wonderfully hot batch of salsa
that complimented our evening meal of burritos and tacos.
The kids really enjoy spicy food, but there were a lot of
cold beverages consumed during that meal.
Fort Mountain State Park has a new naturalist, and we had
the opportunity to meet him on the latter August visit. He
is a retired high school teacher with a lot of energy and
knowledge of the mountain and the immediate area. He hosted
an evening by the campfire and supplied s'mores for anyone
that attended. He has begun a series of weekend activities
like knot-tying and orienteering, scavenger hunts, bear
talks, and wagon rides. We are excited that Fort Mountain
has funded a naturalist again. It's so important to offer
fun and educational activities to the park's visitors,
especially the younger generation. We still miss Ranger
Ruby, Fort Mountain's previous naturalist.
We have mixed emotions about Fort Mountain now. On one hand,
we are pleased to see the park is becoming more popular. On
the other hand, it's getting more difficult to find a
campsite. Both campgrounds were almost full during our
recent visits. We met numerous first-time visitors to the
park. I'm not sure if it's the economy, or the desire to get
back to nature that is attracting these folks, but it's ok.
There is plenty of nature to go around. If you're
considering Fort Mountain State Park for the fall, you'd
better get on the ball. The campgrounds will book-up
Q - Why is the mushroom always invited to parties?
A - Because he's such a fungi!
The Richardson Tribe
Entry Date: March 2011
The Tribe gets around. We like to see new places and do
new things. But sometimes, it's nice to revisit an old
friend. Sometimes a sure thing is better than a gamble. This
is a very busy time of year for our family, so, to
decompress, we decided a to visit an old friend, Fort
Mountain. It's a mystery to me why more people don't take
advantage of parks like this in the Winter and early Spring.
We enjoyed 70 degree weather in paradise, practically by
It was a little
chilly first thing Saturday morning, so we decided to take a
short ride in "Willie B" the Jeep. Fort Mountain is located
adjacent the Cohutta Wilderness. We wanted to see if we could
spot a bear, and maybe do a little rockhounding around the water
falls. We founds lots of quartz of varying colors, just the kind
of stuff gold likes to hide in.
When we got back to
Fort Mountain State Park, we put the canoes in the lake and
spent the rest of the day paddling around, fishing, and playing
at the playground on the opposite end of the lake. We closed the
day with a beautiful sunset, games, and grilled steaks and baked
Altogether, it was
just about as perfect a day as I can remember. Fort Mountain can
get a little crowded in the Summer, especially the beach. But
camping here this time of year is a no brainer. We can't wait to
come back to see our old friend again soon.
The Richardson Tribe
It's been quite a while since we last visited Fort
Mountain State Park (relatively speaking). This truly is our
favorite park, but our goal is to experience some variety
too, so we had to try-out some new places.
We are also
saddened at the park's loss of Ranger Ruby (don't worry
kids, Ruby's fine, it's Georgia's budget that's in need of
Prior to her "retirement", Ruby and her interpretive programs,
crafts, and activities were a
major factor in this family visiting the park. At this
time, the park has no naturalist. I can only hope that, when
the economy turns the corner, the state will fund Ruby, or
someone like her again.
This is the first
weekend after the beginning of school, which might be part of
the reason there were so few people camping. we practically had
the campground to ourselves. We spent an exceptional amount of
time on this trip hanging-out around the campsite. Lee Thomas,
our ten-year-old, designed a scavenger hunt that kept the kids
busy for a couple of hours.
The Richardson Tribe
Entry Date: March 2010
One of the things that makes Fort Mountain unique is its weather.
It's always a little cooler up on the mountain, and the weather can be
totally different up here than at the base of the mountain. On this
particular weekend, there was snow on the ground and we were totally
surprised. Most had melted away, but there was still enough for the kids
to play in for a while.
a canoe from a friend for this trip, and we all took turns paddling around the lake.
It was fun, but it makes me shiver to think how cold that water would
have been had we fallen in.
hiked around the lake, panned for gold, and enjoyed a nice warm
campfire. We are so looking forward to Spring and the leaves and blooms
that come with it.
The Richardson Tribe
Entry Date: November 2009
The Legend of the Cherokee Gold - In the
days before white men came to this region, and for some time after their
Fort Mountain was called "Cohutta", which most closely translates to
"Mountains that Hold the Sky" in Cherokee. After some research, I
discovered Cohutta mountain is the source of several legends about a
lost Native American gold mine.
In doing my research, I also discovered proof (USGS Survey) that
a working gold mine was producing significant ore on the mountain in
1906. Gold had apparently been successfully panned there prior to the
discovery of the veins and the opening of the Cohutta mine around 1905.
and to the surprise of USGS surveyors visiting the mine in 1910, it had
been closed. I have yet to uncover exactly what happened to the mine,
why it was shut down, and when it changed ownership.
19 years later, Ivan Allen, a wealthy man from nearby Dalton, donated
the top of the mountain to the state of Georgia as a state park.
Sometime between 1906 and 1929, Mr. Allen acquired the land.
To me, this whole scenario seemed like a perfect mystery and challenge.
Somewhere on Fort Mountain is gold. In fact, Ranger Ruby (the naturalist
at the park) had provided some sand for me to pan, and I did find gold
in it. she told me it was dug from where Gold Mine creek feeds into the
lake when the lake was lowered for maintenance.
I planned this particular trip for the
purpose of doing a little prospecting. So, on Saturday afternoon, with
gold pans in hand, a friend of mine and I began the hike up Gold Mine
Creek. We panned gravel from the bottom of the creek, but to no avail.
There was plenty of black sand, but no color. As we moved up the creek,
we could smell a strong odor that we believed was probably a bear, so we
moved on. We visit Fort Mountain frequently, so I will come back to pan
again soon. Maybe even get Ranger Ruby and her husband to take us to the
old mine shaft.
While at the park, we hiked around the
lake, casting our fishing lines in from place to place. We played ladder
ball and Frisbee golf, build a little bridge over the stream behind the
camper, and found lots of insects hiding in old trees. We sat by the
fire and talked until we all got a little chilly and turned-in.
The Richardson Tribe
Entry Date: August 2009
Anyone that knows us knows we love Fort Mountain State Park near
Chatsworth, Georgia. We decided this would be a good weekend to wedge in
between our other scheduled adventures.
On this trip, Ranger Ruby
introduced us to David Promis, a river keeper with the
Coosa River Basin Initiative. Dr. Promis taught us about how
pollution gets into our water. We learned what kinds of strange things get into
the rivers, especially athletic balls. We were introduced to water testing, and
all the kids tested the lake water for PH levels.
Ranger Ruby also
had a woodsy gentleman there to demonstrate how to grind corn. We ended
Saturday with some good old fashioned singing and picking by Ranger
Ruby, her husband Don, and a friend. It was another wonderful Fort
Note: Dr. David Promis is a River Keeper for the Coosa River Basin
Initiative. His services are provided as a free service to parks and
schools within the Coosa River Basin. For more information
Entry Date: May 2009
Here we go again! We love Fort Mountain State Park! This is one of
our first trips in our new Winnebago Access (Homer II), and we really
enjoyed it. We were able to get a site on the lake, and some of our very
good friends were in the spot next door.
Ranger Ruby*, Fort Mountain's naturalist came by and visited us for a
while at the camper! Ruby is one of the reasons we love Fort Mountain.
We hiked and rode bikes all day Saturday, but had to leave Sunday
morning because of rain. It was a great weekend, even with the rain.
There's not a lot we
can say about Fort Mountain that we haven't already said.
It's a beautiful park with a great lake, beach, miniature
golf, trails, and campsites. Ranger Ruby isn't working yet,
and the concessions and boats aren't open yet, but we still
had a lot of fun.
Some of us took a little bike ride around
the lake where they saw two non-venomous snakes. Everyone else walked
and missed the snakes because those of us on bikes scared them away.
Later, the kids went to the beach and swam in the very cold water.
We spent time at the playground where we met some new friends that
played "freeze tag" with us. We also spent a lot of time playing in the
little creek behind our campsite looking for salamanders and frogs.
Fort Mountain has become our favorite
place to camp, by a mile.
Well, as usual, we
had a wonderful weekend of camping, hiking, eating, and
generally decompressing at
Fort Mountain. The weather was clear and sunny with the
days peaking around 67 degrees and the nights dropping to
the 30s (prefect for a rip-roaring fire).
Some friends joined us for camping and Halloween fun on this
fine weekend, and some extended amily members came to visit
on Saturday, just in time to enjoy our first Dutch Oven
desert (apple crisp).
The kids Trick-or-Treated in the
campground which resulted in a lot of candy consumption. We went on a
couple of nice walks, and hiked a trail we've never been on; Big Rock
Nature Trail. It was a relatively short, but brisk hike with lots of
great views. There is a 400' cascading waterfall (in non-drought
situations). I took notice that the cracks and crevices in the ancient
creek bed may have some gold lodged down in them, so next time...
Here we are again, at
Fort Mountain having fun. We celebrated our friend's
birthday on this trip, and I kind of took a vacation from
the camera. Ranger Ruby was there, so we were able to pan
for gold for a while. As usual, the weather was a little
cooler on the mountain, and a few rain showers helped cool
it off even more. On Sunday, after we broke-down camp, we
went for a ride on Grassy Mountain in Willy B the Jeep. It's
so green and crisp on the mountain after a rain.
The current price of gas is but
one of reasons
Fort Mountain State Park is quickly becoming our
favorite state park to visit. Homer gets less than 10 miles
per gallon, and Fort Mountain is close, so it saves us a lot
of money. There are many other reasons to love Fort
Mountain. They have a wonderful campground (no full hook-up
though, it's a state park),
a beautiful lake, a beach, boats, miniature golf, lots of
hiking trails, history, and mystery.
On this particular PB&J Adventure, some very good friends
joined the Richardson Tribe for a fun-filled weekend of
camping. What you can't tell from the pictures is the
youngest two (twins) had a 10am Saturday T-Ball game
to attend. I also had a wedding to go to Saturday
afternoon. To top it off, a bad storm was predicted to hit
late Saturday night.
We chose to ride-it-out, and I'm
glad we did. It was beautiful till well after bed-time, then
it began to rain hard with some lightening (nothing too
close), but there was no real wind. The kids slept straight
through it. I'm not so sure our friends slept quite as well
in their pop-up camper. I think it may ahve leaked a little.
While at the park, the kids got to swim and play on the
beach, and go on a hike around the lake. During their hike,
Rebecca ran into a friend that was working with a group of
people placing signs along the trail. The signs identified
certain plants and sometimes their medicinal/therapeutic
purposes as used by the Cherokees. Volunteers like these
contribute significantly to the state parks here. Most
residents and visitors have little idea of the value of
educational & recreational resources like this and Georgia's
other state parks. We visited the parks so many times last
year that we decided to purchase the yearly family pass.
Benefits from the purchase pay for the membership almost
immediately (free camping or golf, 10% discounts on
camping/lodging and gift shops, a free train ride, no
parking/entry fees for the year, etc.). Our top rated value.
Entry Date: August 2007
This was a really great weekend, with the exception of
one thing, a bear ate our camera. That's my story and I'm
sticking to it. Everyone else seems to think I left it at
the playground and someone else (human) took it. Nonsense!
Anyway, the camera was old, so it was really no big loss,
except that we lost most of our pictures for the weekend.
Some of the pictures here are borrowed from the Georgia
State Parks site.
We did a lot of hiking at the park this weekend
(trail map of the park). We took our dog Roxy with us,
and she did great! We hiked up to the overlook and the old
rock fire tower built by the
CCC. The supervisor of the crew chiseled a rock in the
shape of a heart and placed it over a window on the tower as
a tribute to his fiancÚ.
From there, we walked down to the
mysterious rock wall that gave Fort Mountain mountain its name . No one
is quite certain who built the wall or when. There are a couple of good
theories though. The weather was great and all the kids are getting
better about hiking. That evening we fished for a while before going to
the group shelter for some good acoustic music. We saw Ms. Ruby, the
park's naturalist. She is a big reason the kids had such a good time on
our last visit. Unfortunately, we kept missing her sessions all
weekend. It was well after dark before we got back to our camp site, so
we enjoyed the fire for a while before hitting the sack.
On Sunday, before heading home, we spent the morning walking around the
lake and playing at the playground. It was a classic weekend to
remember. Rebecca and I enjoyed a
steak and onion (not Vidalia, but just about as good), and the kids
had a Southern Polynesian delicacy (skewered Oscar Mayer hot dogs and
Entry Date: August 2007
With daily temperatures over 100 degrees, the Tribe wanted to head
for a higher altitude. Fort Mountain is not far from home, and the park
is a couple thousand feet up, so it looked like a great short weekend
adventure. On average, the temperature on the mountain is about 10-12
degrees cooler. Some friends of ours joined us, and they were one site
over. We had the best sites on the lake.
Some other friends and family drove up on
Saturday, so we had quite an extended family at the park. The kids got
to see a snake presentation, we heard live music, we played at the
playground, we went to the beach, we hiked around the lake, we rode
bikes, we did lots! But we just didn't have time to do everything. Fort
Mountain is another of Georgia's wonderful parks with so very much to
do. We really want to make the trip again soon, perhaps in a month or
so when things are starting to cool off. We want to hike to the wall
and tower, and see the other overlooks. We want to pedal boat and fish
some more. There is horseback riding right down the road, and miniature
golf right there at the park.
The two campgrounds are exceptional with
very large level sites. There is electricity and water (no sewer), and
that's just fine for 2-3 days at a time. We had an almost private
grassy area and nothing between us and the lake except a few trees and a
path. The cozy outdoor theater that hosts music, a naturalist, crafts,
and a Sunday morning service was just around the corner from us.
The Richardson Tribe