April 12, 2020

Crooked River State Park - A Circuitous Explanation and Exploration

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

Our overnight stop at Twin Oaks RV Park in Elko allowed us to color in the state of Georgia on our camping map of the United States.  Although we had driven through Georgia plenty of times on our way to and from Florida, we had never vacationed there or even stayed overnight – camping or not.  But that stop at Twin Oaks wasn’t our only camping adventure in Georgia last spring.  After leaving Elko, and then stopping to watch the trains at the Folkston Funnel, we had less than an hour to go to our final destination of the day – Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, Georgia.  It’s time to put on your thinking cap because the next couple of paragraphs are, well, rather confusing.

St. Marys, Georgia, with a population of approximately 17,000, is situated on the St. Marys River which marks the boundary between Georgia and Florida.  (No, I don’t know why there is no apostrophe after the “y,” but there isn’t.  If that’s a problem, feel free to take up the issue with the Town Fathers.  Or Mothers.)  The St. Marys River is, indeed, crooked, but that’s not the river for which the State Park was named.

Crooked River State Park is situated north of St. Marys, just past the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.  (Interesting fact:  Kings Bay is one of only two Trident submarine bases; the other is Naval Base Kitsap, located on the Kitsap Peninsula in the state of Washington.  This would explain why so many businesses in the St. Marys area have the word “Trident” in their name.  But I digress.)  The Kings Bay Naval Base is on the North River, which isn’t very crooked at all and so, understandably, is not the river for which the State Park was named.  (Strike two.)  Crooked River State Park actually sits directly on the East River according to Google Maps.  (If you can’t trust Google, who can you trust?  Cough, cough.)  Anyway, the East River is very crooked, and is, apparently, known by everyone except Google as the Crooked River for which the State Park is named.  Just to be clear, though, the  Crooked/East River is to the north of the North River, but the North River must flow south because it empties into the St. Marys River which is south of the Crooked/East River.  Both the St. Marys River and the Crooked/East River empty into either the Atlantic Ocean or the Cumberland Sound.  (It’s hard to tell on the map, though, because all the water is colored blue and it kinda sorta all blends together.)  But the Crooked/East River first enters Kings Bay, so I’m wondering why the Naval Base was named after the Bay when it’s not situated on Kings Bay but on the North River.  Personally, I would have called it the North River Naval Base because it makes more sense.  However, since this is a submarine base, I’ll bet they use the North River, the Crooked/East River, the St. Marys River, Kings Bay, Cumberland Sound and the Atlantic Ocean all the time and we wouldn’t know it unless the submarines surface.  The Crooked River State Park brochure notes that waterskiing is not recommended due to hazards in the river.  In this case, “hazards” probably equals “submarines.”  If this paragraph has confused you, as I suspect it might have, simply take a look at the Georgia map and this will all become as clear as the water in these rivers.  Ahem.

The campground at Crooked River is just gorgeous - and very well kept!

Wow!  Did you see how easily I got off track?!  I really wanted to share our experience at Crooked River State Park with you.  All kidding aside, the Park is lovely and, it appears to be well-run.  Not only was check-in at the campground a breeze, but the staff thoughtfully offered us a senior discount of which we hadn’t been aware when we booked the site. The nicely designed campground has neat and spacious sites, and many are canted to provide a better view than your neighbor’s picnic table or electric pedestal.  There are 62 sites with water and electric, and I understand that some sites have been upgraded to full hook ups.  There’s a dump station in the Park, but we didn’t use it (or the restrooms), so I can’t comment on the set up or cleanliness of either.  Truthfully, I booked a site here primarily due to the campground’s proximity to Cumberland Island National Seashore, and we only stayed two nights.  I’d go back again in a heartbeat just to camp in this Park.

Our enormously beautiful Site #12

In addition to the campground, there are 11 cottages or cabins that look like they’d be perfect for a family getaway. The cottages are set away from the campground, and some of them have a view of the river.  Speaking of that, there are several sites in the campground with river views and, in our opinion, WE GOT THE BEST ONE!  Yessiree!  All that planning and searching for photos and reading reviews paid off big time.  We were in site #12, absolutely loved it, and would build the dates of a future stay at Crooked River State Park around our ability to snag that site again.

The view captured my heart even before we had the recliners unstrapped.

Site #12 is a back-in site, which worked wonderfully for us due to the big window on the back of our travel trailer.  Sitting in our recliners by that window, watching anglers drift by in their boats, was a simple and delightful pleasure.

Here's another pic of Site #12 because it's . . . Just. That. Amazing.

Now, I know those of you who live in the warm, southern areas of our country will probably laugh (looking at you, Mr. Phannie and Mae!), but Alan and I were very excited to see out first armadillo – ever!  I understand these little critters are often road kill on the highways of the south and west; however, they are definitely NOT inhabitants of  the northeast, so seeing this little guy (or gal) speeding through the trees between our campsite and the river was quite the treat.  (Mike, if you keep laughing, we’ll drag you up to our neck of the woods so you can meet a black bear.)  Seriously, one of the pleasures of spending time in the natural world is having the opportunity to see God’s critters in their home habitats.  It really is a thrill for us whether we spot a moose in Wyoming, salmon heading upstream to spawn in Alaska or a “little armored one” scampering through a State Park in Georgia.

Luckily, the camera was handy - this little critter was quick!

Crooked River State Parks racks up plusses in areas other than camping and lodging.  Alan and I hopped on our bikes to explore the Park and found several features that would encourage residents and visitors to spend time here and allow them to enjoy it immensely.  The boat launch and dock are popular with the locals, and the Park even has a bait and tackle shop and fish cleaning stations for anglers.  There are 4 picnic shelters for group outings and a very basic, 18 hole miniature golf course.  The Park also has an outdoor gym set-up, the first we had ever seen, allowing workouts in the fresh air and within view of the Spanish moss-covered oak trees that are plentiful here.  Families with children or grandchildren might appreciate the Nature Center and the Park’s Nature Trail.

I love the idea of an outdoor gym!

This was our first experience with a Georgia State Park.  A big plus in my book is the fact that Georgia State Park campsites are reservable through ReserveAmerica.com.  Some states have their own reservation systems, but it’s nice to make a reservation through a site with which I already have an account.  If other Parks within the state are as clean, nicely designed and full of fun features as this one, I imagine that they’re extremely popular destinations.

Next up – our visit to Cumberland Island National Seashore.  Come along for the ride!

For additional information on Crooked River State Park, hop on over to the Georgia State Parks web site (link HERE).

A note to Janis and Mona:  As it so happened, I had checked out Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary on DVD from the library shortly before the wave of closings began in our area.  Since we’re not obligated to return any items prior to the end of April, I’ve been slowly working my way through the eight discs in between ongoing projects here at home.  You were right – it was fascinating to see the evolution of country music through the decades and, as expected, Ken Burns and his crew presented a thoroughly researched and extremely well done documentary.  Thank you both for pointing me in this direction!


  1. I had St. Marys and Crooked River on my list, but now I added three little asterisks to it based on your glowing recommendation! And I'll be sure to snag site #12, hopefully before you do ;-) Thanks for the fun read!

    1. Looks like we'll have to coordinate travel plans when it comes to Crooked River, Tessa! Really, though, there were a lot of lovely sites there - we were very impressed. When I looked last week, the Park was enjoying an 8.5 rating on CampgroundReviews.com.

  2. That looks like a wonderful park! So well planned out (and I love the painted turtle directional sign). Perfect timing on the Ken Burn's documentary! I'm glad you are enjoying it as much as we did! You probably are more familiar with many of the names than we were.

    1. While I was familiar with most of the names, I wasn't familiar with all of the stories. The documentary actually changed my opinion of at least two country music artists - for the better. Thanks for the excellent recommendation!

  3. It was worth navigating through your valiant geography explanation to get to the armadillo story, at which I guffawed, as you predicted. After finishing your piece, I considered going back and reading again about the labyrinthine confluences of those various waterways and the plethora of ancillary information you provided, but I know my limitations. Learning the operating systems of the Boeing 727, the last airliner I flew, was a piece of cake by comparison. It requires a good deal of writing talent to make the incomprehensible merely indecipherable. (grin) Another thing I've determined is that you know something about picking campgrounds. Crooked River is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing...and, as always, it was entertaining.

    1. Mike, I've always considered myself to be a good judge of character. Thank you for confirming that to be true. As you know, no matter what the reviews say, you pay your money and you take your chances any time you roll into an RV Park or campground for the first time. We were pleasantly surprised at Crooked River. No, make that excitedly surprised. We love State Park campgrounds, but we never expect them to look like well-kept private RV parks. Crooked River is a real gem.


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