Anatomy of a Park: The Story of Chewacla
Ever wonder how Chewacla came to be? Let's take a look at how everyone's favorite state park has evolved over the years.
What is Chewacla? Ask any Auburn student, and they’ll certainly have an answer. To us, Chewacla is more than a local state park; it’s a place for us to get away from the busy college life. A place to get a taste of the outdoors. A place for us to get outside with friends and relax.
One of my favorite things about Chewacla? Its timelessness. It is closely tied to the Auburn-Opelika area and has been for decades. But why is it the place to go for Auburn students? To answer that question, let's examine the park's history.
The area where Chewacla is located has been a popular recreation spot for more than a century. Its start, however, was more practical than just a hangout spot. In the early 1840s, a sawmill named Wright’s Mill opened on Chewacla Creek, one of two creeks that run through the area. During its operation — and even after it closed in 1873 — the mill’s deep pool area was a popular swimming spot for locals.
Little changed until 1935, when the land was purchased by the federal government, who established a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camp in the area to restore and conserve the forest.
While there, the CCC began to build the park, constructing six stone cottages (which are still rented out and used daily) and an arched masonry bridge. They also laid two miles of roads and foot trails.
Chewacla Creek’s concrete and stone dam is arguably the CCC’s most notable addition. It created two of the park’s most popular spots: Chewacla Lake and the 34-foot waterfall nearby.
After letting the CCC hold the land for 4 years, the Alabama state government retook control, and Chewacla State Park was created in 1939. Since then, the state has added additional accommodations like pavilions, picnic tables and grills.
From a sawmill to a state park, Chewacla has experienced a lot of change throughout the years. But even during these changes, the land has remained a popular place for the people of the Auburn-Opelika area. Whenever you choose to hit the mountain bike trails, or simply chill in your ENO by the waterfall, think back to the hard work that built our favorite state park.
Although the ways we enjoy Chewacla have changed over the years, we still recognize that at its core, Chewacla was, is, and forever will be an integral part of the Auburn experience.
For more information about the park or to plan your own getaway check out the Chewacla State Park website here. As always,
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Jack P.