On our way to Jekyll Island recently, we stopped at the Georgia State Historical Site of Fort King George. Hubby and I enjoyed learning about why this bluff was such a special part of Georgia’s history…and the boys LOVED exploring the site, climbing in the fort and “battling” each other on the marshes.
Why Fort King George is an Important Site
Fort King George (FKG) is rich with history that spans hundreds of years, as it is the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia’s coast. It’s been loved and fought over by Native Americans, as well as French, Spanish, British and Scottish settlers. Here are the most pressing reasons this site is important to our history.
- By keeping the French and Spanish out of the area, Fort King George helped the British gain control of the Southeast in the 1700s
- It gave the British control of the Altamaha River. The Altamaha River is Georgia’s largest river, and in the 18th century, whoever controlled the Altamaha controlled most of the southeast.
- It helped lead toward the settlement of Georgia in 1733.
- It served as an example for the settlement of the Oglethorpe’s Scottish Highlanders in Darien in 1736. The Scots were instrumental in helping the British end Spanish threats for land in the 1742 Battle of Bloody Marsh.
Could it be fair to say that without FKG, we wouldn’t be enjoying our Georgia home today? That might be stretching it a bit, but FKG certainly played a large role in settling the colony that eventually became Georgia. And that’s reason to enjoy a visit!
What to Explore at Fort King George
The main attraction – at least for the kiddos – was exploring the reconstructed fort. Structures include a blockhouse, officers’ quarters, barracks, a guardhouse, moat and palisades. Their favorite adventure was climbing through the blockhouse, which served as the main defense structure of the fort.
They peeked through gun ports and musket loopholes, climbed through “secret doors” in the flooring and so much more. The boys also loved hiding in the sentry boxes in the corners of the fortress, and pretending to “load and fire” at the cannon battery.
Spend time exploring the museum within the Visitor’s Center. We loved seeing the Muskogee Indian canoe, a model of FKG, medical paraphernalia from the 18th century (yikes! Thank goodness for growing medical advancements,) and more.
Don’t miss the film that explains the original Guale Indians, the Santo Domingo de Talaje mission, Fort King George, the Scots of Darien and 19th century sawmilling when Darien became a major seaport. In the corner of the theatre we found a box of costumes and wooden weapons, which the boys wore during the movie. They LOVED this; I think it really helped them feel the fort come alive.
FKG is on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail. The numbers of birds found along the trail change with the rising and falling of the tides and with the passage of the seasons. Becauseof that, each visit offers the chance to experience a new wildlife adventure. The best way to experience this at FKG is to take the short Nature Trail that follows the perimeter of the fort and other historic structures along the Altamaha River.
The kiddos also enjoyed seeing ruins from the 19th century sawmill that was also built on this site. It was a steam powered sawmill, and it brought the Industrial Revolution to Georgia. The ruins are across the path from a replica wattle and daub dwelling, thought to be common among the Guale Indians who occupied the area well before the 1500s. I think it a beautiful juxtaposition of the way the land was originally used vs. how it was last used before becoming part of the park system.
Finally, rent a canoe or kayak and enjoy the Altamaha up close. The waterway in this area is part of Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail. The Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail (SECT) connects the Chesapeake Bay and the Georgia-Florida border. For over 800 miles, the SECT hugs the coastal waters of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, providing a unique opportunity for paddlers to experience an unbroken trail through four states in the tidal marshes and rivers of the southern USA.
Family-fun Events of Note at Fort King George
ANYTIME is a great time to visit, but here are a sample of the events happening this year at FKG that would be especially fun for families.
First Saturday Fun. Every first Saturday of the month from 1pm – 4pm. Enjoy interacting with a site interpreter as they bring the fort to life. Activities will vary, such as colonial toys and games, soldier talks, musket firing demos, and the occasional colonial crafts person (spinning, blacksmithing, wood-working).
Fourth of July. Sue went during the fourth of July when they had a special encampment. Below is a video of the event.
Scottish Heritage Days. All ages will enjoy this showcase of Georgia’s Scottish and colonial history, with weapon demonstrations and cannon firings, re-enactors, blacksmithing, weaving, period cooking and music, and fort tours. Friday is Student Day. A battle reenactment will be 2 p.m. Saturday. A traditional Scottish “Kirkin of the Tartans” will be 10 a.m. Sunday.
Colonial Memorial Day Celebrations. Join the Garrison for 3 days of artillery drills, blacksmithing, and soldier’s life activities. Musket and cannon firing demonstrations will be presented during the day. Begin your summer with a bang at Fort King George.
Your State Parks Day. Your State Parks Day is an opportunity to give back, so lend a hand and help us with our volunteer project on the park. There will be general clean-up activities. Read more about why these days are so important!
The Ghosts of Fort King George. Come and join us for an evening of trick and treating, as we step back in time with the ghosts of the fort. This is a Hidden Gem event; click here to see more!
A Colonial Christmas at Fort King George. Join the Friends of Fort King George for a traditional dinner in the soldier’s barracks. Reservations Required. Program concludes with a cannon firing.