Thursday, February 10, 2011

Banks County: Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area

We explored Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area in Banks County this afternoon. We entered the WMA on Grant Mill Road from the Yonah-Homer Road (GA-51) and drove north through the area. A map may be downloaded here.

Hudson River and its tributaries flow through the area. We crossed this tributary on Grant Mill Road. The water was cascading gently over a solid-rock riverbed that the road forded. Interestingly, a 2-mile section of the river including this section is rated as a Class I-III+ whitewater for kayaking. The water level was too low today to kayak though.

The roads were in good shape. This section had been recently re-graveled and was ‘tame’ compared with many sections. Many sections were very steep.

This small boulder on an open hillside had an overhang which is not clearly visible in this photograph. Organpipe Mud Dauber wasps had built mud nests under the overhang.

A closer view of the mud dauber nests.

We were high enough at about 925 feet above sea level to see rhododendrons on east-facing slopes. Based on leaf color and shape, there were at lest two different species in this area.

A closer view of one species. It's beginning to bud so we'll have to plan to return to the area in the near future.

We saw a couple of small patches of the club moss, Southern Ground-cedar (Lycopodium digitatum). This moss is much more common further north in Georgia where we’ve seen it fruiting in mid-February. These patches showed no sign of fruiting.

This large flat area extended along a small creek and was completely unexpected in an area that was characterized by ridges and narrow valleys. It is a primitive campground and would be a tempting place to camp in warmer weather.

Driving in Wilson Shoals WMA is not for the faint of heart. Some sections of road descended straight down or climbed straight up steep hillsides. Frequently we would be driving down over ridges – intended to ensure that water ran off the road rather than erode gullies along the roadway – without being able to see the roadway beyond the ridge in front of us. We used 4-wheel drive in many places. This would not be a place to visit during wet weather. Today, several roads were closed. It’s not clear if these closures are temporary or permanent. These may be roads that are open only during hunting season.

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