Unicoi State Park
Unicoi State Park is a different world where people can get away from it all and experience first hand the beauties and wonders of nature. Facilities in the park include a Conference Center, campsites, and two beaches on a cool 53-acre mountain lake. Unicoi also provides a year round schedule of programmed activities to round out your enjoyable experience in the mountains of North Georgia.
Near the park is the Alpine village of Helen the most popular tourist destination in the North Georgia mountains. This quaint alpine village is the creation of North Georgia artist John Pollack and local businessmen. One of the traditional Bavarian events held in the city is Oktoberfest, from mid-September to early November. Unicoi is frequently full during this time period, in part because of the festival and in part because of leaf change (Normally between the third week in October to first weekend in November).
Also in the area are hiking trails including
Anna Ruby Falls,
Smith Creek, and the Unicoi to Helen Trail (Access to this trail
is from the road to the lodge and the easy two-mile trail ends in Pete's Park in
The Chattahoochee north of Helen is an extremely difficult whitewater run that should only be attempted by experienced paddlers, and only in the spring when the runoff makes the river high. Easier tracks can be found south of the city. One popular spot to launch is from Lynch Mountain Road at Sautee Creek. South of the junction with The Hooch is a long, heavily forested stretch that has occasional, mild rapids.
History of Unicoi State Park
The Unicoi Turnpike ran from the old Federal highway in Maryville, Tennessee eastward through the Unicoi Mountains, passing through present-day Murphy, North Carolina. From there it turned due south crossing Unicoi Gap, then traveling along, and frequently crossing, the Chattahoochee River. About a mile due west of the lodge the road began a long 75-degree arc towards the headwaters of the Savannah River, ending at the Tugaloo River in the vicinity of another North Georgia State Park, Travelers Rest. Boats would then ferry passengers to the cities further south. The early turnpike was entirely in the Cherokee Nation. Land cessions agreed to by the Cherokee brought the entire road under the control of the state and federal government in 1819.
During the Gold Rush the Unicoi Turnpike and the Union Turnpike further west played an important role in shipping both raw and minted gold to market.
Gold mining began around the area of the lodge sometime after 1830. A ditch to supply water for hydraulic mining, dug after The Civil War, ran through the area of today's Unicoi State Park.
During the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) set up camp north of the site of the present lodge at what today is the bottom of Lake Unicoi. About the same time local businessman and politician Charlie Maloof got the state to build a new highway to Hiawassee (State Road 75) to replace the aging Unicoi Turnpike. The road would not be paved until shortly before the completion of the Unicoi Lodge.
One of the first and most famous buildings in the new town of Helen was the Mountain Lodge (actually known under a variety of similar names). For more than 30 years this hotel built a name for quality service and quarters. After the lodge burned in 1945, Maloof began to press the state for help. In 1954 Georgia opened Unicoi Park and Governor Herman Talmadge credited Maloof with being the driving force behind the lodge.
Over the years the park has grown dramatically. Today it encompasses more than 1,000 acres of land (not including the federally-owned 1600 acre Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area that adjoins the park).