In 1965, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers leased a site on Lake Hartwell to the state of Georgia for the creation of Tugaloo State Park. This 393-acre park was to be the first recreation area on the newly created 56,000-acre reservoir built at the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca rivers. Governor Earnest Vandiver, a Lavonia native, was influential in the establishment and development of the park.
Lake Hartwell's popularity has grown over the years to become one of the most heavily visited recreation lakes in the country, and Tugaloo State Park with it. Swimming beaches, picnic areas, boat ramps, camping and cottages have been developed to provide the residents of Georgia access to this tremendous recreational resource, and the park has become a popular destination for visitors from all over the Southeast and beyond. The rugged peninsula provides almost unlimited access to the lake, but also protects the site from encroachment from nearby subdivisions and businesses that have grown with the popularity of the area.
Tugaloo State Park also is rich in cultural and natural history. Tugaloo is a Cherokee Indian word meaning "rushing waters" which describes the Tugaloo River prior to the creation of Lake Hartwell. This river was an important trade route for the Cherokees and other tribes, and at one time many Cherokee villages were established along its shores. The park also protects a rich diversity of plant and animal life typical of the upper piedmont.