Last Updated on February 23, 2023
If you are a camping family, you have no doubt discovered many excellent places for pitching your tent or parking your RV throughout your state or neighboring ones. If you live in Florida or Georgia and want to enjoy a beautiful state park with an abundance of activities for the whole family, simply log on to Reserveamerica.com and look for FortMcAllister State Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia.
Ft. McAllister, on the banks of the Ogeechee River, is a well-preserved example of an earthwork fortification that was first used in 1861 by Confederate soldiers attempting to stave off the Union advance under General William Tecumseh Sherman. Fort McAllister was the ending point of Sherman’s famed “march to the sea,” which began in Atlanta in November of 1864 and ended when the outnumbered soldiers of Ft. McAllister surrendered in December of that year. This allowed the capture of Savannah, a mere 12 miles north.
Fort McAllister should be on anyone’s list of state parks to visit, either for camping or for a day enjoying the beautiful and historic natural surroundings. You can learn about an important time in our country’s history, experience a beautiful and peaceful wooded setting, and partake in numerous outdoor activities.
When you visit the fort, you will begin your tour with a 10-minute video introducing the main characters of McAllister’s past and explaining the timeline of the fort’s main events. After the video, visit the artifact displays behind the check-in desk. There are rifles, pieces of pottery, maps, and Civil War uniforms displayed behind glass cases with ample and interesting commentary about the age, origin, and use of each item.
Next, head outside and tour the earthwork fortification that helped the soldiers hold off the barrage of fire from Union ironclads from the Ogeechee River seven times. A descriptive and easy to follow map with numbered markers makes it easy to know exactly what you are looking at and why it was important to the fort.
The full tour takes at least an hour, but you can linger longer at each stop or buzz through quickly if you have children that aren’t quite ready to digest the history. It is compelling to wander through the hills and mounds between cannons, bombproof barracks, palisades, and even a furnace for heating cannon balls that were shot over the banks of the Ogeechee towards the ships in the river below. It is an interesting and worthwhile way to spend some time away from your campsite, and worth the admission price of $9.00 per person.
After wandering around the fort outside, go ahead and cool off back inside the gift shop where you can buy a cold drink, an ice cream bar, talk to the friendly rangers behind the desk, or pick up a tee shirt or Christmas ornament for folks back home. The gift shop is also where you can rent any water equipment or even hire a guide to lead you through the trails. The gift shop is where campers will register and fill out paperwork, as well as pay for ice and firewood.
Tent campers will be impressed with the way the sites are arranged in the campground portion of this park. There are RV and camper sites up front, with two “on duty” hosts assigned to keep an eye on things.
Both types of sites are well spaced, with raised platforms on which to pitch your tent, water and electric utilities, a fire pit, and ample trees and bushes for that “in the woods” feeling. Once your tent is set up you won’t feel that you are too close to others or that they are encroaching on your privacy. You may bring your well-behaved pets as long as they are kept on a six-foot leash and never left unattended. At night there is only the wind howling through the many pine and oak trees to lull you to sleep.
Some of the many amenities in the campground include a large and well-appointed picnicking area with tables and shelters, which may be reserved ahead or snagged on a first come, first serve basis on the day you want to use them. For larger gatherings, an enclosed group shelter with heat and air, a fireplace, and full kitchen that accommodates up to 150 people may be reserved. For outdoor fun, you will find two playgrounds, a fishing pier, and even an outdoor exercise equipment section for those who want to “pump iron” outdoors while on a camping trip.
Does your group need more creature comforts? There is also a “cottage” section, which has newer looking stilt structures with commanding views of the surrounding marsh and private cul-de-sac location. These cottages sleep six to eight people with two bedrooms, two full baths, and linens, towels, and soap provided. One of the cottages is handicap accessible, and one is pet friendly.
There is a two-night minimum stay, and you are still required to have a park pass if staying here. These cottages are very nice looking and would be perfect for larger families or group getaways.
For hiking enthusiasts, there is the Red Bird Creek Hiking Trail, a 3.1-mile hike near the campsite area and along the saltmarsh and Red Bird Creek. Keep an eye out for small critters, such as squirrels and many different bird species, and try not to be alarmed at the signs for gators!
For a shorter hike, try the one-mile Magnolia Trail, which meanders through the nearby woods of the campground proper. This trail makes a good diversion before or after dinner and is available as a guided hike if your group wants to know all the details of your surroundings. If a guided hike is for you, take advantage of the park’s many scheduled guided hikes, such as a “First Day” hike on New Year’s Day or National Trails Day hike and trail clean up in June.
If you love the challenge of geocaching, ask at the front desk for more information about the more than 20 geocaches hidden around the park.
You are permitted to ride a bike on the hiking trails, however be aware that some trails may be too wet or otherwise impassable for a bicycle. Bikes may be rented at the front office for either half or full day.
If you have a boat, you may bring it with you to the campground; simply secure a Boat Pass from the front office, whether you are the registered camper or a guest of a camper who is bringing the boat. The boat ramp is conveniently located just south of the camp sites, and there is ample room to maneuver your trailer and to park it while you enjoy boating on Redbird Creek or farther into the Ogeechee River.
No boat? No worries! You can rent a canoe, tandem, or single kayak for four or eight hours, or a single paddle board per person at an hourly rate. All equipment appears to be in excellent condition, with easy access into the river via a floating dock. Even though these water sports are available, swimming is not allowed anywhere in the park.
Fishing is allowed on the pier, but not on the floating dock. The fishing pier is located at the front of the park near the museum office and picnic shelters. If you have a group using a shelter for an event, it is easy to bring your fishing gear and throw a line into the river but still be near to the festivities going on with your group in the shelter.
Even with all of the available activities for campers or day visitors, something else sets Ft. McAllister apart. The park has many excellent special programs that are offered throughout the year, including Junior Ranger summer camps for ages seven to ten, Girl Scout Night Owl Hike, Civil War Volunteer Trust Day in April, a Memorial Day commemoration, a tree planting event, and even a Lady’s Afternoon Tea in May. Some of these events are free, some have a fee, but there is no shortage of activities for all sorts of people with a variety of interests.