Two of the most peaceful lakes in Georgia can be found in Union County in the shadows of Blood Mountain and Slaughter Mountain.
Legend has it that the mountains took their names from long-ago horrific battles that occurred between warring American Indians. The only bloodshed that occurs today is when a trout fisherman has an unfortunate encounter with a fishhook at Lake Winfield Scott or at Lake Trahylta at Vogel State Park, about 11 miles south of Blairsville.
The lakes offer some serious swimming and fishing opportunities to beat the July heat.
Vogel at this time of year is a well-used park, so you'll have to share your getaway. Call (800) 864-7275 or see gastateparks.org to check on cabin or campsite availability.
If you're just going up for the day, there's plenty of room along the 20-acre lake to stake out a spot on the beach.
You'll need a trout stamp to fish the creek at Vogel, but not the lake. A trail around the lake offers easy access. There are 17 miles of trails in the park, including a loop and a longer back country trail.
For more civilized fun, the park offers boat rentals, picnicking, a playground and miniature golf. There's also a museum on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which built the park, and the Vogel office/store sells camping needs, snacks and plenty of souvenirs.
If you're in need of a quieter retreat, 18-acre Lake Winfield Scott is rarely crowded. You can fish from the bank or bring a boat (electric motors only), or swim from its grassy beach area. There's a platform at the edge of the swim area for diving or sunning and a bathhouse behind the beach for changing. Day-use picnic tables are under the evergreens near the beach and up from the day-use parking lot.
Campsites are up the mountain from the lake.
Two trails (2.7 miles and 1 mile) with moderate climbs lead from the lake to the Appalachian Trail and there's a flat, easy walk around the lake trail.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: From Augusta, take Interstate 20 west to Thomson, then U.S. Highway 78 west to Athens. Take U.S. Highway 129 north from Athens (it's the second left onto the Athens bypass) to Vogel. It's just down from Neel's Gap and on the left. Watch for the sign. Lake Winfield Scott can be reached by taking Georgia Highway 180 west, on the left just past the Vogel entrance. It's about a 3.5-hour drive and 180 miles to Vogel. It's about 6.7 miles from Vogel to Lake Winfield Scott, which will be on your left. Note: The exit road from the lake is the first left after crossing the creek, and the lake entrance is about 100 yards further west of the dam on the left. Watch for the sign.
LUNCH OR BREAKFAST: Fuel yourself up for serious recreation with a stop at Ma Gooch's Restaurant, a throwback diner at U.S. 129 and Georgia Highway 75 in Cleveland. It offers cat head biscuits and strong coffee for your morning, and delectable fried chicken and fresh country vegetables on its cafeteria-style lunch line; (706) 865-2023.
STAYING THERE: Vogel has 103 campsites and 35 cottages; there are 36 campsites at Lake Winfield Scott, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
FEES: Vogel cabins are fully equipped, including linens, the cost is $75 and up, depending on size and season; camping at Vogel costs $20-$22, and there's a $3 day use fee; at Lake Winfield Scott, campsites cost $6 (the double campsite is $12 a night), and there's a $3 parking fee.
LEARN MORE: For more on Vogel and other Georgia parks and for reservations, see www.gastateparks.org or call (800) 864-7275.
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