Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cotton Hill Campground (near Fort Gaines, Georgia and Eufaula, Alabama)

Cotton Hill is an Army Corps of Engineers campground located on the Georgia side of Walter F. George Lake. This is a park that most GPS units cannot find and your intuition is that the bumpy roads leading to the park must be wrong. Who would volunteer to take their RV down these roads?
A colleague at work told us about the park, gave us general directions, then said to pay attention to the road signs. This proved to be valuable information as the signs, not the GPS, brought us to the park. While 30 satellites were arguing over where we were at that moment and our velocity, terrestrial road signs directed us into this park. (The information on Recreation.gov, the site you need to use to reserve a site at this park, includes GPS coordinates. We found several reviews online that said those coordinates were wrong. That made the advice from my co-worker more on target: cross the Alabama/Georgia line on Hwy 82 at Eufaula, turn right on Georgia State Road 39 then follow the road signs. )
Normally, we would have used the Google Maps app on our iPhones to verify the route to the campground. This failed because AT&T hasn't discovered Georgia State Road 39 yet and there is no service along this highway. Without reliable cell service, Google cannot figure where you are and load the proper roads. Once again, you need to follow the signs.
Road sign at the park's entrance
While checking in, we asked the park attendant what he thought about the site we reserved on the Web site. He bluntly replied that it wasn't his favorite because of the angle and it would be terrible for trailers with rear doors because there is a drop-off at the end of the pad. With less than a ringing recommendation, we took off looking for our site.
We quickly discovered that the attendant was correct. We could not have selected a more difficult site for Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.
A quick trip back to the Park Attendant's Station and we trading in our reserved site for one of the non-reservable ones.

Our new site at Cotton Hill
One of the first lessons we learned about this park, besides the fact that it is a challenge to find for the first time, is that some of the best sites are on the walk-in list. We asked the park attendant to recommend a site and he gave us three suggestions. We took the one he said was his favorite and it turned out to be great.
Most of the campsites in this park are large. That means there is some space between your site and your neighbor's.
There are three loops in this campground. They are Pine Island, Marina View and Old Mill Road. All of these loops feature lots of sites with views of the lake.
We ruled out the Marina View because many of those sites are pull-throughs. These are great for campers with their "best views" on the side. Since Rosie's best view is out the rear window, we would be staring at the truck and camper behind us.
There are some great sites in the Old Mill Road loop. There are also some steep declines to trailer pad. While I am sure our F-150 truck could handle the angles, I wasn't positive our nerves could deal with it. That left the Pine Island loop as our choice for Rosie.
The attendant warned us that AT&T's cell service in this park was awful. We found that we had strong 4G/3G service at the back window facing the lake. You lost the signal by the time you reached the road in front of the trailer.
The pocket of cell service was unique to the Pine Island loop. We tested our iPhones in the other two loops and never found any reliable coverage. Other campers said that Verizon had good coverage over the entire park. That is something we cannot confirm.
This is a great park for riding bicycles because the roads are flat and there are beautiful views.
We also found lots of wildlife in the park. We saw several deer about 100 yards from Rosie. One of our most interesting sightings was a pileated woodpecker. Having watched more than my fair share of Woody Woodpecker cartoons in my childhood, it was fun to see and hear this bird.
Another exciting sighting was golden eagles. We thought we saw one the first evening in the park. We drove down to the dam the second day and saw several there.
There were also several ospreys sitting on nests around the park and on posts sticking out of the lake. Most of these birds were very vocal as you approached their nests.
Multiple possums, armadillos and raccoons were seen in this park during our stay. I saw a raccoon jump from the dumpster as I took our trash out one night. When I threw our trash bag in the dumpster, I heard several "thumps" indicating that more raccoons were inside feasting on our trash.
Lake George is huge and you can see storms building across it. We saw a storm building on Friday and it rained all day on Saturday. Back in our tent camping days, an all-day rain was a deal-breaker. Instead of huddling in the tent and being careful to not touch the sides, we were able to enjoy watching the storm's effect on the lake and enjoy life inside Rosie.
The rains on Saturday were accompanied by some strong winds. People talk about the aerodynamic design of Airstream trailers helping them weather winds. While we heard the wind in the trees near Rosie and we saw the results looking out our windows, we didn't feel Rosie being buffeted by these winds.
Cotton Hill turned out to be a park that we enjoyed and one we will return to later.
Some specifics about the Cotton Hill COE Campground:
  • There is only one bath house in each of the loops. That means you have a hike if you need to visit the bath house.
  • The bath houses are not in the best of shape. While they are regularly cleaned, the don't qualify as "modern."
  • This is a "pet friendly" park. (Make sure you pick-up after your pet!)
  • AT&T 4G and 3G service was poor to non-existent in this park. Our iPhones worked only near the shore in the Pine Island loop.
  • There is no wi-fi available anywhere in the park.
  • We were able to watch TV stations from Columbus, Ga (CBS, ME-TV), Dothan, Ala. (ABC, CBS, CW, MY-TV) and Montgomery (FOX, Antenna and THIS).
  • Camping sites in all three loops have full connections, including sewerage.
  • Electrical hookups includes 50 and 30-amp service.
  • Bring bottled water to this campground. We have a filter on the entire trailer plus Airstream provides a filter on the kitchen sink. After two filters, we found the camp's water to be hard to drink and we ended up going out and buying several gallons of water.
  • Several people said that the Bagby State Park has a restaurant and that this is one of a couple places you can eat at near the park. We decided to go there for the Friday night seafood buffet. We checked the buffet before we decided if we were going stay and discovered the buffet was fried catfish, baked unidentified fish, popcorn shrimp, boxed mashed potatoes, soggy onion rings and something that had sausage and corn in it. We agreed that this buffet wasn't worth $15.95 and left.
  • There isn't any real shopping near Cotton Hill Campground. Make sure you pack everything you need because you won't find it within 10 miles.
  • It is worth taking a trip into Eufaula. There are several old homes there including the Shorter mansion. Eufaula is the best place near Cotton Hill for shopping and a meal out.
The bottom line is that this park is worth visiting.

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