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Kayakers engage in a trip with Fort King George rangers. The site will offer its next kayak outing July 2.

Today is flag day, a time to honor the heritage and history of America’s national emblem. But, long before the stars and stripes proudly flew over statehouses and military installations, there were others. Like the flag itself, Fort King George in Darien has quite a past of its own. In fact, if the site could talk, it would likely relate stories of its history, including the days when the garrison operated under the British Empire.

That began back in 1721, a good 50-plus years before the American flag would make its debut following the Revolution. It is incredible to think that something still in existence today locally actually outdates the American flag. And while the structures are reconstructed representations of original buildings, going to the fort is still very much like stepping back in time. It’s an invaluable resource for both children and adults, allowing them to see what soldiers lives were like nearly 300 years ago.

But the fort itself is much more than just dry history — all facts and figures — instead, the rangers there offer engaging programming. While they offer events for adults and children, students can especially take advantage during the summer, with a wide array of programs. Ranger Jason Baker said there is something for a variety of interests.

“A highlight of these being multiple ‘Intro to Kayaking’ programs. Guests who are new to this activity are given a chance to be familiarized with the basics of launching, boarding, as well as actual paddle stroke techniques that are essential to effective kayaking,” he said.

Forts across the state are offering “Parks After Dark,” allowing guests to see the location in a completely different light. Baker adds that in accordance with this, Fort King George has already held several moonlit paddling trips.

“(We will) have another one coming up soon on Monday, July 2 from 8:30-10 p.m. The July 2 excursion will leave from the fort’s dock and will traverse past a bald eagles nest, as well as an old steam ship engine out into the Darien River, before returning to the fort dock,” Baker said.

The goal of these programs is to give visitors both a unique experience learning some history, but also give them opportunities to experience the area’s environment. Another program that does this as well is the fort’s young ranger program titled, “Going Coastal: Junior Ranger Day Camp at Fort King George.”

“Students will learn will through hands-on activities, and a field-trip over to Sapelo Island. Each day has a theme, one is fort day, in which the junior rangers will sign up in the British Army using an authentic goose quill pen to make their mark on the recruitment and enlistment documents, he said. Another day the junior rangers will ride the ferry boat over to Sapelo Island and visit the beach where they will get to use a seine net, (see the) lighthouse, as well as the R. J. Reynolds Mansion.”

The next program will begin June 26. The junior rangers, ages 9-12, will meet from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fort. Camp will continue through June 28. Baker said this, along with other options at the fort, will help to offset some of the inevitable summer boredom, as well as teach them new things.

“These programs that are offered help to keep kids engaged by offering opportunities for parents to get their children away from the ever present TV and phone screens that are so pervasive. Most, if not all programs held at the fort engage the five senses,” he said. “Again, with the ever-present screens, it is important to have these programs and opportunities to allow folks young and old to get out and explore the actual reality — not virtual, or augmented — that is around them.”

Baker feels the fort is a perfect resource for doing just that. Other summer highlights include Cannons Across the Marsh on July Fourth in addition to a number of kayak excursions. There is a comprehensive listing of events on the fort’s website, which is gastateparks.org/FortKingGeorge.

Baker said all of these offerings give visitors plenty of choices and chances to learn.

“The fort is a great resource that should be utilized due to the perfect combination of things that we offer. From paddle trips for more experienced folks, to the intro to paddling for novices,” he said. “From the historic fort replica to the site’s nature trail, we offer an ideal blend of the natural world, as well of the stories from the historic world, that marry into the perfect fusion of the story of the Georgia coast.”

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