Did you know that you can drive a little ways from home and experience a geological curiosity? Just a few miles up the road is Magnolia Springs State Park, home to a unique aquatic ecosystem and a fine getaway for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
Located on the outskirts of Millen, Ga., Magnolia Springs is a crystal clear, natural spring fed by the Ocala Aquifer. The spring pumps 7 million gallons of water a day rising into the land and forming a habitat that is reminiscent of the Karst topography of old Florida rather than the rolling farmland of central Georgia.
Around the springs, a 1,071-acre park has been created that offers boardwalks, hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas and a 28-acre lake for fishing and boating.
The main attraction to Magnolia Springs State Park is, in fact, the springs. When my family and I visited recently, the springs bubbled beneath a blue sky and seemed to be filled with wildlife. A boardwalk and arching bridge carries visitors over the waters and offers glimpses into the clear depths below. My two boys enjoyed watching turtles and bream swimming beneath them while nearby an alligator gazed at us warily from a log. For a Blufftonian used to sandbar swimming or lazy summer days on a blackwater river, such a waterway appears otherworldly and filled with light.
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Up the hill from the springs is a picnic area and a very large playground. A nondescript building sits nearby housing a small museum dedicated to the history of the park and the surrounding area.
A park ranger greeted us at the museum and took us on a journey into the past. After an afternoon of exploring the park and hiking on the three-mile loop hiking trail, we were ready to head for home -- but not before making plans to return for a camping trip in the fall.
Magnolia Springs State Park is worth a visit, whether for a daytrip or an overnight experience in the natural world.