Unicoi State Park was originally named after the Unicoi Turnpike, which was a toll road used in the 1830’s to bring the first white settlers to the area and ran completely through Cherokee territory. The Cherokee word “unega” (unicoi) means “white”, so the meaning of Unicoi is a “Place of the White”. It has also been interpreted as the “New Way” and “The New Beginning”. This probably came from the turnpike road that a majority of settlers used for a transportation route.
During the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a camp along Smith Creek, north of the site of the present lodge at what today is the bottom of Lake Unicoi. About the same time local businessman and politician Charlie Maloof got the state to build a new highway to Hiawassee (State Road 75) to replace the aging Unicoi Turnpike and soon the town of Helen began to develop.
One of the first and most famous buildings in the new town of Helen was the Mountain Lodge (actually known under a variety of similar names). For more than 30 years this hotel built a name for quality service and quarters. After the lodge burned in 1945, Maloof began to press the state for help. In 1954, Georgia opened White County Area State Park and Governor Herman Tallmadge credited Maloof with being the driving force behind its conception and initiation. It was officially listed as “White County Area State Park.” The park originally consisted of 278 acres (not including 1800 acres of leased land from the Federal Government) and was noted in the 1957 Geological Survey as “Unicoi State Park”.
The Park was renamed in the 1960’s to the unlikely name of “Unicoi Outdoor Recreation Experiment Station”. The land in and around Unicoi is serenely beautiful and worthy of conservation. Concerned North Georgians worked for many years to create an outdoor recreation experiment station, and in 1968 their goal was finally attained. When the lodge was completed in 1973 it was called Unicoi Lodge in honor of the turnpike that ran near the park. In 1974 the state renamed the park itself to Unicoi State Park, which was already the most widely and popularly used name for the park. Today Unicoi encompasses more than 2,000 acres of land and is adjacent to the federally-owned 1600 acre Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area. Unicoi Adventure Lodge is a hub for guests to overnight, dine and enjoy many adventures such as the Zip Line Canopy tours, hiking, kayaking, team building and paddle boarding.