5 Notes on Visiting New Echota State Historic Site

5 Notes on Visiting New Echota State Historic Site 1

As part of my project to visit every Georgia State Park & Historic Site, I went to New Echota State Historic Site in North Georgia. Here are 5 notes about the Site.

New Echota Should Be More Famous

Ok, back in elementary school I learned the broad strokes about Sequoyah and the Trail of Tears. In college and post-college, I learned more of the details about the Indian Removal Act, Manifest Destiny, etc. But I had never really heard of New Echota.

New Echota was the capital of the Cherokee nation, State, and government. It was the Cherokee’s answer to Washington DC. It is also where the Trail of Tears officially began. And the entire site is like the “but wait…there’s MORE!” for one of the most infamous chapters in American history.

New Echota is a full-on planned city with the Cherokee legislature, judicial, and executive branch buildings in addition to example Cherokee settler buildings on a huge physical site paired with a detailed and thoughtful museum.

While the Trail of Tears can be this abstract event that most all Americans intellectually agree was a Bad Thing, New Echota, for me at least, puts the whole thing in a this-thing-happened-here physical context. It was deeply moving and sobering.

I’m thankful to all the people who did the hard work in the 1950s and 1960s to preserve & reconstruct parts of the site. It’s a National Historic Landmark and a State Historic Site…but I kind of feel like it should be an even bigger deal somehow?

The Site Leans The Complexity

The biggest takeaway from visiting New Echota was just the sheer human complexity of what happened. Looking back 200 years ago, there’s more moral certainty over the whole episode.

But for individuals living through the history, there was an ocean of gray area that is just, very complex, difficult, and nuanced. It’s a good reminder that even right now, issues that are certain as an abstract concept are not always that simple in real life.

It Does Have Field Trip Vibes Though

The staff in charge of the Site are amazing and the facilities are well-done. But the fact that it’s about this sobering chapter in history…and it’s not super famous…means that I bet almost all their visitors are 4th Grade Field Trips (the grade when Georgia kids learn about Georgia history). Most of the site is optimized for big groups of kids rather than the general public.

5 Notes on Visiting New Echota State Historic Site 2

I think the National Park Service could absolutely come in an upgrade the signage path finding, and historical assets to what they’ve done at nearby Chickamauga National Battlefield and Martin Luther King Historical Park.

The Site Is Walkable & Lovely

The site is flat and surprisingly huge. There’s a couple mile nature trail in the back of the site. The entire site is just lovely to stroll through. I had my young kids with me, and it was a great place to just let them loose with a responsibility reminder.

The Winter sees basically no visitors. The summer would be pretty hot. There’s not a ton of shade in the most of the old town grid. But the shoulder seasons would be perfect.

You can go in and tour most of the buildings on the site, which are pretty cool and interesting in their own right.

New Echota Is Right Off I-75

Some of Georgia’s State Parks are hard to get to. New Echota is so convenient.

It is insanely close to I-75. I had really no idea until I typed in directions.

5 Notes on Visiting New Echota State Historic Site 3

Take Exit 317. Drive a couple minutes down Hwy 225. And it’s right there. There is tons of parking, clean bathrooms, a big area for walking, and a shaded picnic area. Yes – there’s an admission fee that goes directly to preserving the site.

If you are driving through Georgia, it is absolutely worth a stop.

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