The Woodpecker Trail may be one of the oldest tourist routes in the United States. It began as the Woodpecker Route, back in the early 1920’s. In 1922 it was listed in the Automobile Legal Association’s ‘Automobile Green Book’. The description of the Route at that time was from Augusta Georgia to Lake City and Jacksonville Florida. Much of the general line of travel is still followed. It is thought that the Depression may have reduced the financial ability to travel to the extent the Route was no longer used.
In 1947, a group of leaders from several communities met at Magnolia Springs near Millen, Georgia to discuss the revival of the tourist route, this time under the name of the Woodpecker Trail Association. The Association secured permission to use Walter Lantz’s cartoon caricature ‘Woody Woodpecker’ for the trail’s mascot. Signs with ‘Woody’ on them lined the highway from Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Petersburg, Florida. some 620 miles. The Trail was promoted to the tourist in the northeast as the fastest way to the gulf coast. Florida and South Carolina changed their state highway numbers to match the Georgia State Route 121, thus tourist could travel through three states following the same state highway number ‘121’. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Interstate Highway System began to be completed and the travelers found a fondness for the fast lane, 24 hour restaurants, gas stations, motels and no traffic lights. This again reduced the tourists on the Trail and its use faded as a tourist route.
By the mid 1990’s, many of the traveling public had grown weary of the fast lane and again desired the much more scenic and relaxed two lane highways of old. Visitors to Welcome Centers would occasionally ask “What ever happened to the Woodpecker Trail” they remembered traveling as a child? Gradually an interest grew to again revive the Trail. The ten counties in southeast Georgia met, felt the timing was right and began working putting together a plan to accomplish their goal. The group became incorporated with a representative from each of the ten counties as well as many local and state agencies. An effort to again use ‘Woody Woodpecker’ as the Trail logo was unsuccessful, so the newly established board, began looking at the logo from the 1920’s and began making modifications, such as color, a tree lined highway and a state highway sign. After several drafts, a great colorful travel oriented sign was created.
In 2004, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia passed SR 843 designating GA SR121 as The Woodpecker Trail Highway from the Savannah River to the Florida state line. This legislation was signed by Governor Sonny Perdue on May 17, 2004. On September 19, 2005, Governor Perdue and others officially dedicate the Woodpecker Trail Highway in Augusta.
The newly designed logo was imprinted onto highway signs and erected along the Trail guiding the traveling public through the great communities, scenic farms, state parks, historic homes, and wonderful downtowns that are located along the Trail. RAC cards and new maps have been developed, printed and distributed to the visitor’s centers and Chambers of Commerce around the state.
Efforts continue to bring the states of Florida and South Carolina back into this newly revitalized Woodpecker Trail.