By Sue Rodman
Sweetwater Creek State Park is only minutes west of downtown Atlanta, but once you are there, it feels worlds away.
We started our adventure by securing the Interpretive Center with our light sabers. (My youngest was pretending we were on Endor and looking for Ewoks around each corner.) While there we learned the Interpretive Center is one of the most environmentally responsible buildings in the state park system. The building has achieved LEED platinum certification from the US Green Building Council. This is the highest possible rating given for buildings and quite an accomplishment. We also learned about the wildlife around the park and got a history lesson on the early textile industry in Georgia.
Once we drove out the Imperial forces, we headed out for our hike. There are four hiking trails of varying difficulty at Sweetwater Creek. The red trail is the history trail and runs parallel to the creek. On this hike you pass the remains of New Manchester Mill, a thriving textile mill in the mid-nineteenth century. The mill and the town surrounding it were destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The mill workers were captured and transported north for the remainder of the war. Many never returned. The Interpretive Center has a well done display on the importance of cotton, the textile industry and daily life in a mill town. In addition, you can hear first-hand accounts of the capture of New Manchester Mill during the Civil War by the actual residents.
The red trail provided a beautiful and easy hike along the creek. The boys were disappointed that the Mill remains were fenced off. They had a blast running around the Sope Creek Mill remains and were expecting to do the same thing here. The disappointment didn’t last long as we moved farther down the river and discovered we could walk IN the river along the rocks. The older boys channeled Lewis and Clark and blazed a trail that at times was a little hard to follow. We finally pulled them back and zig-zagged our way to the river bank, without getting wet feet, and continued the hike. The trail got much steeper, but it still was a nice walk.
We heard there was a waterfall a little farther down the red line trail, but the youngest was tuckered out, even taking a little nap on the rocks, so we grabbed Lewis and Clark and headed back. It was a great family adventure and even the oldest two, who are normally at each other constantly, were working together and even posed arm-in-arm for a picture. The power of the outdoors.
What: Sweetwater State Park
Where: 1750 Mt. Vernon Rd., Lithia Spring, GA 30122
When: Trails open 7 am – dark, Interpretive Center open 8 am – 5 pm on most days.
Cost: $5 park entrance fee