West Georgia Roadtrip
West Georgia is known for its peanut fields, pecan groves, and pine forests, and this rural expanse of land extends from the peaks of the Pine Mountain Range to the farmlands of Plains, West Georgia is linked to two American presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, who both have deep ties to the area. The personal histories of these past presidents are so significant to the history of this region that it is known as Presidential Pathways.
The town of Warm Springs is known for the naturally heated waters made famous by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Located on the southern end of town is the Little White House, where the President FDR spent time to relax and recover from his battles with Polio.
Franklin D. Roosevelt loved the peaks of Pine Mountain Ridge, especially Dowdell’s Knob. These mountains make up part of F.D. Roosevelt State Park, which is Georgia’s largest state park. In addition to the mountains, the park includes forty miles of trails, as well a life-sized statue of FDR that sits on the overlook.
Columbus is located on the Chattahoochee River and is home to the longest urban whitewater course in the world. You can also jump in a tube and lazily “shoot the Hooch” during the summer when the river is more tame as well as fly across the river on a zip line. Columbus is also home to the RiverWalk, a 15-mile linear park that runs alongside the Chattahoochee great for walking and biking.
One of the most significant folk art sites in the U.S. is Pasaquan, a seven-acre art installation located in the little town of Buena Vista, which is about halfway between Warm Springs and Plains. Pasaquan is the product of 30 years of work done by artist Eddie Owens Martin, who transformed his mother’s house and estate into a Technicolor wonder that you have to see to believe.
Nothing lends prominence to a small town like being the home of beloved former president Jimmy Carter. See his birthplace and boyhood home in Archery, near Plains, and then visit the Habitat for Humanity Global Village & Discovery Center in nearby Americus.
The Plains Historic Inn and Antiques Mall are a nod to days past, and are evidence of the love that the president and his wife hold for Plains. Each of the seven themed guest rooms at the Inn represent a different decade, ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s. President and Mrs. Carter played active roles in the transformation of a former Plains mercantile into The Plains Historic Inn and Antiques Mall. He helped construct the walls; she selected period pieces to furnish the seven themed guest rooms, each of which represent a decade from the 1920s to the 1980s. After checking in, stroll down Main Street to Plains Trading Post, one of the largest political memorabilia dealers in the South, and Plain Peanuts, home of the must-try soft-serve peanut ice cream.
In 2013, after learning about the plight of the monarch butterflies that had lost host and nectar plants along their migratory route, Ms. Carter decided to plant beneficial species in her own garden in Plains. Today, more than a dozen of her namesake gardens have taken root in Plains (and more than 350 globally) At the Georgia Visitor Information Center, visitors can see monarchs and other species at different stages in their life cycles.
Albany sits at the center of Southwest Georgia, in a region closely tied to America’s early Indian culture. Below the land around Albany is the Floridian Aquifier, an ocean of fresh water that feeds the area’s rivers and creeks.
In 1961, Mt. Zion Baptist Church hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights lenders as they gave hope and inspiration to crowds preparing to challenge racial injustice, oppression, and segregation. Today, visitors to the Albany Civil Rights Institute can see Old Mount Zion, which was built in 1906 and is a testament to the Soutwest Georgia Movement that began during the times of slavery and is still present today.
Also, don’t miss the Ray Charles Plaza. Ray Charles was born in Albany in 1930. The center of the plaza features a monument to the musical genius. The statue of Charles rotates and plays Georgia on my Mind.
Some of the best-kept secrets and hidden gems of Georgia can be found in these small towns, and even native Georgians don’t know about them. Do yourself a favor and check out this area that is full of rich history and culture. You can expand your understanding of Georgia, and have a blast while you do it.