Chestatee-Chattahoochee RC&D

Making things happen for Northeast Georgia

Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge

Completed in 1983, Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge is located above the Georgia Mountain Fair in Hiawassee. Chest/Chatt RC&D Councils mission to assist local people in planning and carrying out activities that conserve natural resources, support economic development, enhance the environment and improve the standard of living for all citizens allowed us to be instrumental in funding and developing the Hamilton Gardens project. The brass plaque on the pedestal at the gardens gives credit to Chestatee/Chattahoochee Resource & Development and Blue Ridge Soil & Water for its help, both of whom are still helping people today.

Quietly tucked away in the North Georgia Mountains, sits a rare and special treasure, a botanical paradise fairly bursting with dogwood, tulip magnolias, native azaleas, wild flowers, trillium and rhododendron with over 400 varieties of Rhododendron – 3,000 plants in all. Hamilton Gardens is a truly enchanted spot, boasting one of the largest collection of rhododendrons in the state of Georgia. You can stroll tranquil pine bark trails as they wind through lush foliage and drink in the stunning views of Lake Chatuge and the breathtaking countryside, including the majestic rise of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak.

In the early 1950s Fred Hamilton, an executive of the Sears Roebuck Company, bought a home in the Atlanta area and was delighted to discover native plants, including rhododendrons and azaleas, on the site. He and his wife Hazel later purchased a place in Towns County near the “Hog Creek” community. There, they found more rhododendrons and other wild native plants. This sparked their interest in creating a lush garden where they brought many other varieties of rhododendron from all over the world. The Hamilton’s were happy to share the beauty of their gardens with others and invited visitors to tour the grounds. As time went by and the gardens grew, caretakers were needed to help maintain them and Mr. Hamilton began to realize that he could no longer care for the gardens as he once did.  He searched for a place to donate his extensive collection of rhododendrons, where the conditions were right and the soil conducive to their growth. Tests were done and a compatible soil was discovered at the grounds of the Georgia Mountain Fair. In 1982, Mr. Hamilton generously donated his collection to the Fair and they were transplanted in an area where they could be cared for and appreciated by thousands of visitors yearly.

While every day is a special event in the Hamilton Gardens, peak viewing season usually occurs the last two weeks in April through the first two weeks in May. The plants and the gentle walking trails are maintained throughout the garden with plant enthusiasts finding a selection of rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants available for purchase at the gardens during the peak season.

Chest/Chatt RC&D, true to their mission, provided help and funding during the development of these majestic gardens in 1983.  The Gardens are now in need of renovation and are under the watch of a newly formed local non-profit group, Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge, Inc. This group is in need of financial help, tools, volunteers, chemicals and anything that can be used to help restore the gardens to their former glory. An ATV is one of the most pressing needs and any donations for that would be greatly appreciated. The ATV would be used to transport people who cannot walk the trails, haul debris, tools, supplies and any other uses that the group has a need for. Anyone who is interested in becoming a part of this most worthwhile project is welcome to join in.

For more information on Hamilton Gardens and other RC&D projects, contact Frank Riley, Executive Director of the Chestatee/Chattahoochee RC&D Council at info.ccrcd@gmail.com

Chestatee-Chattahoochee RC&D Council

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