Historic area offers more than just fishing
By John Felsher
In 1963, Lake Eufaula opened on the Chattahoochee River. “Chattahoochee” comes from the Muskogee words “chato” meaning “rock” and “huchi” meaning “painted” for the colorful granite outcroppings along its course.
Today, the river and lake form part of the Alabama-Georgia line. Officially dubbed Walter F. George Reservoir, but traditionally called Lake Eufaula, the impoundment covers 45,181 acres with 640 shoreline miles.
The area still draws people because of the beauty and versatility of recreational opportunities. One such resident is Lamar Turner, who served many years as Henry County probate judge. Originally from Abbeville, he bought a place on a major creek flowing into the lake in 1980.
“On this creek, I can see a long way,” Turner says. “I sit and just watch the boats. Sometimes, we might see 20 or 30 boats. It’s like always having company. Sometimes, we ride around to see what’s new. Somebody is always building something or making improvements. We can ride in a boat all day long because the lake is so big.”
More than boats prompted the judge to move to the lake. An avid fisherman, Turner wanted to live on what many people call the “Bass Capital of the World.”
“It’s a beautiful lake,” he adds. “I love to fish and I love this area. I used to love bass fishing, but I wore my shoulders out. Now, I fish for crappie and bream, but there are all kinds of things to do on the lake. We see a lot of young people water skiing or pulling people behind jet skis. I even performed several weddings in boats on the lake.”
Lake Eufaula still produces excellent bass numbers with occasional double-digit fish. Some top 12 pounds, but the lake also holds abundant other species.
“Lake Eufaula is one of the best fishing lakes in Alabama,” says Rob Andress, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division district fisheries biologist. “It’s a destination lake for many people. The lake also has good populations of channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish and other fish. Both states stocked hybrid bass into the lake for years.”
Good news for the judge: Crappie rank second as the most popular game fish after bass. The lake produces many 1- to 2-pounders with some exceeding three pounds.
“Lake Eufaula is overpopulated with crappie,” says Tony Adams with Going Fishing with Tony. “The biggest crappie put on my boat weighed 3.40 pounds. I’ve heard about fish exceeding four pounds.”
Numerous fishing tournaments, including some major professional competitions, run on the lake each year. Many launch at Lakepoint State Park. Lakepoint and Chewalla Creek Marina rent boats.
“The lake is our best asset,” says Jack Tibbs, Eufaula mayor and owner of Strikezone Lures. “Lakepoint State Park is a world class facility for hosting fishing tournaments.”
The park offers varied lodging options. Visitors can fish off the bank, eat in fine restaurants and even dock their boat at lakeside restaurants for a lunch break before returning to the lake.
“Our hotel has 101 rooms with a large restaurant that overlooks the lake,” says Sharon Matherne, Lakepoint general manager. “Our lakeside cottages have been recently renovated. We’re finishing renovations on 29 cabins. We host many weddings, reunions, business conferences and other events in our banquet rooms.”
Visitors participate in countless activities including golfing, hiking, wildlife and bird watching, biking and other pursuits. The park sits on Cowikee Creek, one of many lake tributaries offering outstanding paddling opportunities.
“We recently added an off-road vehicles trail,” Matherne says. “People can bring their own vehicles or rent one from us. We also added a hard-packed easy access trail for people who have difficulty walking. People can also ride bicycles on it.”
Each February, the park hosts its Fins, Feathers and Flowers weekend. Activities include birding, seminars, archery and programs with live animals. An outstanding place to observe wildlife, the nearby Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge spreads across 11,184 acres on both sides of the Chattahoochee River.
“Habitats on the refuge are very diverse,” says John Earl, the refuge manager. “We have sandy longleaf pine uplands, permanent wetlands, marshes and seasonal wetlands. People can drive or walk some units and observe or photograph wildlife. We also have biking and hiking opportunities. Many people enjoy paddling the backwater creeks.”
People might spot numerous birds including bald eagles, ospreys and endangered wood storks. Large populations of waterfowl winter in the area. During warmer months, people might see alligators. The refuge allows hunting for deer, waterfowl and other game.
At Old Creek Town Park, people can fish off a pier, take a nature walk or picnic. Hikers can explore Yoholo Micco, the Creek Indian Trail. Named for a Creek chief sometimes called Chief Eufaula, the asphalt walkway runs 3.2 miles where a railroad once operated.
“Old Creek Town Park is one of five sites in this area on the Wiregrass Birding Trail,” says Ann Sparks, the Tourism and Main Street Eufaula director for the Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce. “Birding is becoming big here. Other sites include the national wildlife refuge, Lakepoint, Yoholo Micco and Blue Springs.”
At Blue Springs State Park in Clio, the spring stays 68 degrees all year long. It feeds two sandy-bottomed pools, creating a refreshing place to swim on a hot day.
The town of Eufaula dates to 1816 when settlers begin living on bluffs overlooking the Chattahoochee. Eufaula means “high bluff” in the Creek language. Unlike many Southern towns, Eufaula survived the Civil War intact. Consequently, many historic mansions still exist. Each April, the Eufaula Heritage Association hosts its Eufaula Pilgrimage Tour of Homes. The Christmas Tour of Homes occurs in December.
“We have the largest historic district in eastern Alabama and second largest in the state,” Sparks explains. “We have more than 700 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, many built before the Civil War. These older homes give a glimpse of what life was like back then. We also have a very dynamic downtown with great restaurants and boutiques.”
During the Pilgrimage, owners open their historic homes to the public. Some dress in period clothing. People can tour the Shorter Mansion or Fendall Hall all year long. The Shorter Mansion dates to 1884 and appeared in several movies. Fendall Hall dates to 1856. Visitors can also tour museums and other historic buildings. The 2024 Pilgrimage will be held April 5-7.
“New for the 2024 Pilgrimage, we’ll have a vintage fashion show and an art walk,” Sparks says. “People can walk around town and see the artists in front of different businesses.”
In downtown Eufaula, check out Manny, a 12-foot-tall fiberglass bass that honors Tom Mann who founded Mann’s Bait Company. Since the lake straddles the Alabama-Georgia line, anglers can use a license from either state to fish the lake.
City of Eufaula
Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce
Lakepoint Resort State Park
800-544-5253 or 334-687-8011
Chewalla Creek Marina
Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge
Old Creek Town Park