We pass by the signs every time we go to the beach, “Exit For High Falls State Park.” And every time I would say, “We should stop there sometime. I remember going there when I was young.” But every time we would be on a schedule to get down to the coast so every time we wouldn’t stop. And every few years I’ll retell the story.
It is one of those vague memories that has faded from so long ago I’m not even really sure if it really happened. But I remember just enough detail that I know it really did happen.
I remember I was in elementary school. My parents decided to stop here on the way home from the beach. I remember the water falling over the dam and people playing in the water below. I remember a playground. It had these things that looked like UFOs. You climbed up a ladder into a flying saucer type thing. (This design was later enhanced by my local McDonald’s into an Officer Big Mac playground structure.)
I also remember a giant telephone pole hanging horizontally from chains that a line of kids would sit on and swing back and forth. I remember riding for so long that pain shot through my fingers as I released the grip that I had on the chains.
One last thing I remember is that my sister and I had some plastic models to play with. I don’t know where we got them, but she had a woolly mammoth and I had a triceratops. They seemed huge to me, required assembly, and had moving parts — they were awesome.
So imagining I was climbing in a UFO and playing dinosaurs next to a giant dam certainly left an impression on me. One that would stay deep in the recesses of my memory.
Revisiting The Past
This past week we left the coast a little early, so we were finally going to be able to make a stop on the way home. The park was just a few minutes off the interstate. We pulled into the first entrance before going over the bridge. There were kayakers putting in and taking out of the lake above the dam. It looked like you could rent canoes or paddleboats too when things are business as usual.
Realizing that we needed to be on the other side of the river to get near the dam, we drove over the bridge to the second entrance. The playground had been replaced with something more “safe” but of course it was roped off due to COVID-19. Also, no one was allowed to play on the rocks below the dam anymore. While I was initially disappointed with that, apparently too many people have died and put rescuers in danger. And the river sure was beautiful without people crawling all over it and leaving trash around.
There is a quick 1m loop trail on the other side of the road from the parking lot that has great views of the cascades of the Towaliga River. There are more trails on the other side of the river but I’ll have to save those for another time.
Pro Tip: There are some gas stations right next to the falls but if you want the cleanest bathrooms and a large selection of icy beverages then go a couple more exits north on I-75 to the JP Marathon.
The Next Generation
High Falls State Park is a beautiful location to explore if you find yourself headed down I-75. You can spend a few minutes or even plan to camp and spend a few days. Who knows? Maybe my youngest kid will have her own faded memory of stopping at this place and rediscover it for herself years from now.