Spring at Callaway Gardens

Our latest wandering took us on a short trip that was full of excitement. Our first stop was F. D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park, in Pine Mountain. It was the perfect place for us to use as home base for exploring both Callaway Gardens and F.D.R.’s Little White House in Warm Springs.

After driving in the rain on the winding road through the park we arrived at the Visitor’s Center to check in just after a tornado warning had been lifted. Everything was fine in the campground and we set up camp just before another rain shower began.

“Connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both.” – Callaway Gardens Mission

With the sun shining the next morning we drove about 15 minutes from our campsite to Callaway Gardens.  Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens opened in 1952. Today, there are many different gardens to explore, a lodge, golf course, swimming beach, and even a zip-line adventure.

Our tour of the gardens began with a stop at the Pioneer Log Cabin. From there we strolled along the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Trail with many Georgia native plants.  The Flowering Dogwoods and many other wildflowers displayed their brilliant spring colors.

Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens

Next we walked on the trails to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center for a look at some tropical butterflies. Butterflies of all sizes, shapes and colors fed on the colorful blossoms and sailed by our heads as they flew from flower to flower.

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens

We learned about some of Georgia’s birds of prey at the Discovery Center. As our guide gave a very informative presentation, two different species of owl and a red tailed hawk flew over our heads during the program.

Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Willow the Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show

We must have just missed the Azaleas at their peak because most of the Azaleas on the Overlook Azalea trail had finished blooming. The Flowering Dogwoods and other trees added color to the landscape.

20170404Callaway-Gardens-Azalea-Trail
Callaway Gardens Azalea Trail
20170404Callaway-Gardens-Flowering-Dogwood
Flowering Dogwoods were in bloom at Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud at Callaway Gardens
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail

Our visit to Callaway Gardens included only a few of the many gardens there. It is a wonderful family destination and bicycles are a popular way to get around the park. There are several restaurants to choose from or you can have a picnic in one of the picnic areas.

Way Down Upon the Suwanee River

Stephen Foster Museum

Way down upon de Swanee Ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere’s wha de old folks stay

Florida State Song, “Old Folks at Home” by Stephen Foster, 1851

Carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center
Carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center

One our favorite Florida State Parks, we have camped here numerous times through the years. Located on the banks of the Suwanee River, the park is named for American compser Stephen Foster and features a museum with exhibits about some of his most famous songs, a 97-bell carillon, a craft square with demonstrations and a gift shop, and a historic Spring House which once brought many tourists into the town of White Springs.

The Stephen Foster Museum houses many exhibits including several dioramas representing some of his most famous songs. Two of his songs have been adapted as state songs – “Old Folks at Home” is the state song of Florida, and “My Old Kentucky Home” is the state song of Kentucky. You may recognize some of his other songs such as “Oh! Susanna”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.”

According to The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh, “Old Folks at Home” was written for a minstrel show and became the most popular song ever published at that time. Stephen Foster was never in Florida and never saw the Suwanee River. In his original draft of the song he used the name Pedee River but later changed it to Suwanee.

Diorama of "Old Folks at Home"
Diorama of “Old Folks at Home”

The road through the state park winds around the museum and carillon with ancient Live Oak trees covered with Spanish Moss all through the park. The campground is surrounded by pine forest with miles of hiking and biking trails. We love hearing the bells of the Carillon as it chimes on the quarter hour and plays Stephen Foster’s music throughout the day.

Live Oaks with Spanish Moss
Live Oaks with Spanish Moss

On the banks of the Suwanee River sits a Spring House which brought many tourists into the town of White Springs in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. An interpretive sign at the spring house calls it “Florida’s Original Tourist Destination”. The waters from the sulphur springs were thought to have healing powers and people flocked to the town of White Springs for the cure.

Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Florida's Original Tourist Destination
Florida’s Original Tourist Destination
Swimming Pool at the Spring House
Swimming Pool at the Spring House
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Cypress Trees on the banks of the Suwanee River
Cypress Trees on the banks of the Suwanee River
Azaleas blooming in White Springs, Florida
Azaleas blooming in White Springs, Florida

Spring flowers were blooming all around the park and in the town of White Springs.

Flowering Dogwood in White Springs, Florida
Flowering Dogwood in White Springs, Florida

We drove to nearby Big Shoals State Park do a little geocaching and to hike along the Suwanee River. Our destination was an overlook on a bluff high above the Suwanee River to see Florida’s only Class III White Water Rapids.

Big Shoals Trail along the Suwanee River
Big Shoals Trail along the Suwanee River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River

Henry found the geocache and when he opened the container he found this little critter inside.

A surprise visitor in the geocache
A surprise visitor in the geocache

Several years ago during one of our stays at the park we had a delightful lunch at the historic Telford Hotel in White Springs. In one room of the hotel were old hotel registers with signatures of some of the famous visitors to the hotel including Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in 1913. I dug out this photo of the register I took that day and you can see their signatures are the last ones on the page.

Telford Hotel Registery from 1913
Telford Hotel Register from 1913

Sadly, the hotel is now closed and the building for sale.

Telford Hotel in White Springs, Florida
Telford Hotel in White Springs, Florida

My review of Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park can be found on Campendium.