Visitors flocking to Augusta for the Masters Tournament this week can also enjoy activities other than those on the golf course.
Columbia County, a suburban bedroom community west of Augusta, offers recreation, historic and leisure activities. If you have tournament guests in town or looking for things to do away from the crowds, here is a sampling places to visit in the county:
* Boaters and fishermen enjoy the 70,000-acre site that is Thurmond Lake, on the northern border of Columbia County above the dam to the Savannah River. Marinas, parks and boat ramps provide opportunities for boating, fishing and other water activities. Parks along the lake's banks provide picnic and beach facilities.
For those who own a boat, boat ramps are scattered along the shore of the lake, which runs seven counties.
* Wildwood Park, a Columbia County recreation park, sits along Thurmond Lake and offers camping, horse riding trails, eight boat ramps and picnic and beach areas. The 975-acre wooded park, which sits off U.S. Highway 221 just past Pollard's Corner, is the future home of three disc golf courses and the Professional Disc Golf Association headquarters and Hall of Fame.
* Visitors can now take a guided tour along two miles of the Augusta Canal on a replica of the cigar-shaped Petersburg boats. The first boat, named the Henry Cumming after the man who proposed the Augusta Canal, has been operating since October. Augusta Canal Authority officials hope to have the second boat, named Williams Phillips after the chief engineer of the canal, is expected to be in operation by Monday.
The tours are available through the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center on Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The center is offering a Par 3 Twilight Tour from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Trips cost $6 for adults; $5 for seniors and active military; and $4 for children under 12.
Reservations are recommended and can be made at the center at Enterprise Mill at 1450 Greene St., Suite 400 in Augusta or by calling 823-7089.
By the end of the summer, tours will be traveling all the way to the canal headgates at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
* Savannah Rapids Pavilion offers visitors a chance to enjoy a relaxing vista of the Savannah River and the historic canal headgates from an 80-foot bluff in addition to walking, biking and hiking trails along the river.
The pavilion is at 3300 Evans-to-Locks Road in Martinez.
Several restoration projects are underway on the gatekeeper's cottage, which will soon become an official welcome center with historic memorabilia and state tourism brochures, the dance pavilion, dining hall and barbecue pit, which is scheduled to be complete by mid-June.
A pedestrian bridge to connect both sides of the canal and refurbishing of the headgates building including see-through material to see the mechanics of the locks is slated for completion in August.
* Funsville, a miniature golf and amusements park, is at 4350 Wheeler Road, Martinez. The park offers go-carts, miniature golf, batting cages, concessions and video games.
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call the park at 863-3087.
* For the serious miniature golfer, Putt-Putt Golf and Games offers two 18-holes scenic rounds, concessions and a large gameroom. The course, at 3763 Martinez Boulevard, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight Friday; 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
* Columbia County is home to the state's longest functional courthouse in the county seat of Appling on U.S. Highway 221. It was built in 1856 by designer John Trowbridge. Government sessions are still held at the courthouse, which is under renovation, at least twice a year. The courthouse sits across the street from the county's old jail, also built in 1856.
In, 2002, when county officials opened the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans, the county boasted both the oldest and newest functioning courthouses.
* Georgia's oldest Baptist church, Kiokee Baptist Church, was established in 1772. It is still operating and is at 2420 Ray Owens Road, just north of Appling. For more information, call the church at 541-1086.
* A replica of the home of Georgia patriot and senator William Few still stands on the Cobbham Road site where his original home was built in 1773. Few fought as a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War, served as a Georgia delegate to the Continental Congress and signed the U.S. Constitution representing the state.
Few also served as a surveyor-general, a member of the Georgia General Assembly, the U.S. Senate and a judge in the Second Judicial Circuit.
The original home, in the northwestern section of Columbia County known as Winfield, burned in 1930 and was rebuilt by A.D. and Lula Dozier, whose descendants still live there.
* The dam at Thurmond Lake turns 50 this year. Construction on the dam was completed in 1954, when the last turbine engine went into operation. The one-mile, 200-foot-tall dam was built to prevent further flooding of Augusta 22 miles down the Savannah River and went into operation in 1954. The dam, on U.S. Highway 221, separates Georgia and South Carolina.
* The Grovetown Museum, at 106 W. Robinson Ave., Grovetown, is home to military and Fort Gordon nostalgic pieces, World War II artifacts, newspapers with headlines announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the Titanic, and a host of photos, documents and memorabilia documenting Grovetown's historic railroad, buildings and hotels.
Admission is free, though donations are accepted. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call the Grovetown City Hall at 863-4576.
* Harlem, the birthplace of Oliver Hardy, boasts the Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem, Ga. The museum houses thousands of artifacts from the comedic duo including books, posters and all 106 Laurel and Hardy movies that can be watched in a theater inside the museum.
The museum, at 250 N. Louisville St., Harlem, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 888-228-9108 or visit www.laurelandhardymuseum.org.
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