One beautiful spring day during 1930, Cason J. Callaway, a LaGrange textile manufacturer, took his family for an outing at Blue Springs near Hamilton, Georgia. After their picnic lunch, Cason went for a walk in the nearby woods. His solitary ramble led him north over Pine Mountain ridge to a valley that was inundated with worn-out cotton fields. As he gazed over the area, he thought about how lovely this place must have been at one time, and his imagination began to run wild. So, on his return jaunt, he began thinking about buying the entire section from Blue Springs to the once fertile valley and restoring it to its original condition containing natural woodlands with native trees, plants and wildlife. The concept was enormous, but Cason Callaway was a man of “bullish” ideas!
Rhododendrons along a bike and walking trail at CallawayDuring the return walk, Mr. Callaway’s eyes were drawn to a spot of color amidst the green plants. Bright coral-red flowers with very long stamens adorned a large shrub that was growing wild in the woods. Since he was unable to identify this beautiful plant, Callaway picked a blossom to take to his wife, Virginia. She was quite interested in wildflowers and he hoped she could tell him what he had discovered. Mrs. Callaway, however, did not recognize this specimen, but upon further research, it was found to be the nearly extinct, Prunifolia Azalea, which is native only to the area surrounding Pine Mountain. That discovery was the final factor in Cason and Virginia Callaway’s decision to buy the land, propagate the Prunifolia Azalea and other native flora, and create a garden.
For many years, the Callaways labored to restore and improve the land, so the decision to open their garden to the public was not immediate. As the dream became a reality, however, Cason and Virginia Callaway realized that they wanted to share their vision with others, especially children. So, in 1952, the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation was opened to the public.
Today, it is a 14,000 acre resort that attracts more than a million visitors each year. A choice of accommodations from the 350 room inn to the 155 Callaway Country Cottages, or the 50 Mountain Creek Villas is offered. For reservations, call toll-free (800) 225-5292.
Butterfly Munching Away at CallawayIncluded in the unique complex are four golf courses, seventeen lighted tennis courts, two racquetball courts, the longest man-made white sand beach in the world, horseback riding and bike trails, playgrounds, swimming pools, and of course, the actual 2,500 acres of the gardens with their thirteen lakes and a never-ending show of flora and fauna. Also incorporated in the Callaway Gardens complex is the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, which is the largest, glass-enclosed, tropical conservatory for the display of living butterflies in North America, the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, which is one of the most advanced garden greenhouse complexes in the world and Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, which is a model seven-and-one-half acre garden producing more than 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Rod and gun enthusiasts can enjoy pursuing deer or quail in the 1,000 acre hunting reserve that is complete with skeet and trap ranges, or wet a hook in Mountain Creek Lake, which teems with fat bass, bluegill, shellcrackers, and redbreast sunfish. Fly fishing schools are also very popular at Callaway Gardens, and several of the smaller lakes offer excellent fly fishing opportunities.
Regardless of the reason, a spring visit to Callaway Gardens is a trip into a colorful, outdoor paradise that will be a highlight in anyone’s life!
Callaway Gardens is located 70 miles south of Atlanta, 30 miles northeast of Columbus, and two miles south of Pine Mountain, Georgia. It can be reached from Atlanta via I-85 south to I-185 south to U.S. Highway 27 (exit #42). Proceed 11 miles south on Highway 27 through the town of Pine Mountain.