Tugaloo Bend Recent History
River Cane Project - Credit: The Toccoa Record (April 7,2022)
Tugaloo Bend Park is adding another glimpse into how the Cherokee Native Americans lived their everyday lives. The Stephens County Foundation, in partnership with the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation, is developing a River Cane Demonstration Area at Tugaloo Bend Park off Yonah Dam Road. A Corps of Engineers crew, aided by familiar Tugaloo Bend Park mascot Buddy, planted river cane during a workday staged last month.
The river cane project will enhance restoration of an ecologically and culturally significant native plant species and depict how it grew in this area more than 200 years ago. Canebrakes once covered large areas of the Southeastern United States.
It is estimated that less than 2 percent of native cane species remain today in this critically endangered ecosystem. The plant is significant to Native American communities, and in the past extensive canebrakes were created either through systemic burning or agriculture for material and cultural uses.
Restoration of river cane has ecological and wildlife benefits as well. River cane provides habitat for a variety of songbirds, particularly warblers and vireos. Restoration of native canes will enhance habitat and corridors for wildlife movement as well as provide a source of cane for the Cherokee Nation.
River cane is used by the Cherokee to create baskets, blowguns, flutes, sleeping mats, and arrows. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have expressed interest in restoration of river cane for use by tribal artisans and for interpretive purposes.
For many years, local resident Ray Ward supplied river cane from his property to the Eastern Band for use in making authentic cultural objects. The project at Tugaloo Bend can provide cane to renew that arrangement, along with an opportunity for park visitors to learn about the value of river cane.
Though it will be several years before the cane matures, its progress will be visible to people walking along the river on the Noyowee Trail.
Tugaloo Bend Park is open to visitors at 2104 Yonah Dam Road. There are picnic tables and benches along the river trails. The park also features a pavilion, outdoor kitchen and restrooms. Handicap parking and a paved trail accessible to all is adjacent to the pavilion area.
Corps of Engineers river cane work crew members were (from left) Jeff Brooks, Sandy Campbell, Jason Whiting, Tim Crabtree, Dustin Cullen and Buddy the dog
Stephens County Foundation University
The “Stephens County Foundation University” is an entity created to bring educational experiences to the community. Numbers of volunteers, many of them retired teachers, have brought their knowledge and skills to Tugaloo Bend, as we offer an increasing number of educational opportunities to students and adults alike.
During several days in October 2017, both the sixth grade and the eighth grade from Stephens County Middle School were involved in study activities at Tugaloo Bend. These activities were coordinated with the current curriculum of the classes, and were led by volunteers who are members of the Stephens County Foundation University faculty. There were approximately 600 students participating in the activities, over 6 separate days.
Sixth grade students were involved in sessions centering around the natural surroundings of the area, the plants and animals found there, as well as lessons on the soils and effects of erosion in the area.
Eighth grade students were there to learn about the history of the area, both Native American and later periods. These students had the opportunity to experience the “Wattle and Daub” construction methods of the Cherokee peoples, by participating in a “hands on” session, partially constructing a frame dwelling similar to that in which the Cherokees lived. The “daub” material consists of red mud and straw. The students seemed to particularly enjoy getting their hands dirty as they participated in this activity.
Persons who would like to know more about “the University” and who are interested in participating should call 706. 282. 7636.
Tour de Bend Bike & Hike
In 2015 & 2016 , the Tour de Bend was held in conjunction with the Tour de Tugaloo Benefit Bicycle Ride.
This family friendly event featured a 2- mile bicycle ride from Yonah Dam Park to the Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park site. Participants went on a nature hike followed by a history lesson around the camp fire along with s'mores, of course!
Participants then cycled back to Yonah Dam Park for lunch and took part in the festivities of the Tour de Tugaloo.