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Buck Shoals campsites offer serene experience
Sites tucked away by river, open to the public
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Two little campsites nestled along the banks of the Chattahoochee River at Buck Shoals State Park offer campers a chance to experience the outdoors without interruption.

Carl Kirkpatrick, manager at Wildwood Outfitters, said he was one of the first people to camp under the "big open sky" at Buck Shoals. The campsites have only been open since the beginning of summer and haven't seen much use. They will be open for campers all year long.

One of the reasons the campsites aren't used very often is because the park is only accessible by boat. Paddlers on the Chattahoochee River can stop anywhere along the 9,000 feet of riverfront, but no private vehicles are allowed to drive on the property.

Wildwood Outfitters can issue a permit for campers who wish to stay at the uninhabited park. The property is used only occasionally for special events such as ranger-guided hikes, bird watching, falconry and a youth fishing program.

"We're excited because this is sort of the first unguided use of it," Kirkpatrick said.

"So this is the first chance to go out there and just have it all to yourself. That's another step for getting it open to the public."

In 2000, Buck Shoals State Park, a 582-acre property situated along the Chattahoochee River, was purchased by the state in order to protect the land and river from development. A lack of funding has kept the land from being developed into a full state park.

"They did not foresee the economic cycles we've been going through when they purchased that property, but it is still an important piece of property along the river that we protect," said John Erbele, general manager at Smithgall Woods State Park.

Several properties along the Chattahoochee were purchased around the same time and have remained unused while the state waited for funding.

"There are a number of properties the state has purchased in the last 20-25 years, and they are being held to be protected. There is no funding available right now to develop them into full state parks so that's why they aren't open on a regular basis," Kim Hatcher, Public Affairs Coordinator of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said.

It seems as though the long wait for funding may be coming to an end soon for at least one of these properties.

Construction for Don Carter State Park is expected to begin soon. The 1,000-acre park located on the north end of Lake Lanier will become the first state park built on Lanier. The state has started bidding with a construction company and hopes to begin construction soon.

"It's going to take at least a year to build roads and infrastructure, campgrounds and picnic areas," Hatcher said.

"We tend not to promote this because we don't want to get people's hopes up when they can't go for at least a year."

Plans for Don Carter State Park include RV and tent campsites, cottages, playgrounds, hiking trails and a wide variety of amenities and is expected to open next year.