Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Camping Where the Fish are...

U-haul fiberglass camper at Moccasin Creek State Park on Lake Burton.
It's been a busy, hot summer and I haven't had much time to get the family out for a camping trip. I was looking forward to the fall in hopes of getting one in when work and the weather cooled down. A couple months ago some guy friends and I began discussing a big family camp out. The last time we'd done this as a group, only two of us had kids. So we each cataloged our gear and booked a couple sites at Moccasin Creek State Park on Lake Burton in North Georgia.

My wife and another mom came along while the other moms stayed back with their younger kids (<1yr). We ended up with 8 adults and 11 children (most of them under 6yrs old). This was going to be many of the kids first time camping. As someone who's camped from hammocks and tarps to tents and our camper, I had the most gear and was able to cover us with 2 large tents to sleep most of the folks. We took our camper for our family and also because it made for a great way to haul a lot of the gear. We setup on two sites with our camper and large tent at one, and the other large tent and a smaller one on the other site. (Oh and I forgot to mention we took our 3 dogs which was another reason for taking the U-haul.)

View of Lake Burton from the dock at Moccasin Creek State Park.
Moccasin Creek State Park is located on Lake Burton in the North Georgia mountains. It's about half-way between the towns of Helen and Clayton. Moccasin Creek SP sits on the edge of Lake Burton where Moccasin Creek dumps into the lake. The park only has 54 camp sites; there are no cabins. The campground is relatively flat and well shaded for the most part. There is a boat ramp to put in boats and a couple docks to tie them up at so you don't have to necessarily put them in every day. There is also boat trailer parking at the campground. Unlike many of the other state parks in Georgia, this park isn't open year round (it's closed from Dec 1 through March 15).

We were setup on sites 14 and 25, which were the last 2 sites available when we booked. They also happen to be ADA sites and close to the restrooms (which was a bonus with little ones). While our sites were not near each other (unfortunately), most of the sites are fairly close together. Our neighbors were super friendly. They were from Athens and had camped there for 20 yrs. They seemed to know or be friends with everyone at the campground and were gracious enough to spot us a can of beans so we'd have enough for dinner one night. They had to be the nicest campground neighbors I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. So if you want to camp with friends, book in advance and you might get a few sites next to one another. If you want a bit of privacy, sites 37-39 might be the best option. Sites 1-5 are right on Moccasin Creek, but there's a walkway between you and the creek that folks use for accessing the creek for fishing. There is a church (Boat Church as it's referred to) that meets at the open air pavilion on Sunday mornings for a service right on the lake. Anyone is welcome from boaters on the lake to campground guests. I wasn't able to attend the service due to having to pack all the gear up, but we were close enough I could still hear them singing the old hymns which was nice. Depending on when you need to leave on a Sunday, you may want to plan to leave before or after the service. There are an influx of cars for the service which could make maneuvering a larger rig more challenging if you're near the pavilion. Most of the cars were gone by the time we left (which was probably 30 minutes after the service was over).

Fishing with the kids at Lake Burton Hatchery.
There is a section of the creek at the park that is only for kids and 65+ to fish. The hatchery next door has some stocked fishing ponds and we took the kids over there for some fun fishing Saturday morning. Each of my kids caught 3 small fish within an hour. They loved it and were so excited. I had to hold them at 3 each cause I could tell it was going to become a competition that might go all day.

Later in the afternoon we loaded up the kids and made our way over to Wildcat Creek to a sliding rock section on the creek. The water was really cold but the kids didn't seem to care. With some hammocks up for adults to relax in, we spent a good while there that afternoon. Eventually, we packed it in and headed home to fry some chicken strips up for dinner.

Tour of the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery.
Moccasin Creek State Park, as I mentioned, is right next to the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery. The hatchery raises trout and stocks Lake Burton and many of the trout streams in North Georgia. Here's a great video on what they do: (Lake Burton Fish Hatchery Video). On Sunday after we packed up camp, we took the kids over to the hatchery to look around. John, the hatchery manager (gentleman in the video), came out to talk to the kids. I wasn't expecting there to be anyone around on a Sunday morning. It was a nice surprise when he came out and engaged our small group to tell us about what they did there and answer questions. He even grabbed a bowl of fish food and let the kids feed the brown trout they were going to be releasing in a couple weeks! He's been working there for over 10 yrs.  He is a super nice man and really engaging with children. So if you stop by, tell him hi.

With the gear, dogs, and kids packed up, we started our trek homeward. We will definitely keep this place in mind for future trips. I'm thinking of coming back in the spring when they're stocking the creek so the kids can take a try at fishing for brown trout. Maybe we can even watch them loading up the fish in the trucks to release. I think the kids would get a kick out of that. Hopefully, next time we can stay longer as I think 2 nights was not enough time for us.