Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, Atlanta Tract: Shoal Creek Ford to Etowah River Ford

November 19, 2011. Continued from here. The Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area is ‘divided’ into four tracts from south to north: City of Atlanta, Goethe, Amicalola, Wildcat Creek, and Burnt Mountain Tracts. We spent most of our time in the City of Atlanta Tract. We drove south from Dawsonville on GA-9 and then west on Dawson forest Road West and entered the WMA from the southeast. Like the Blanton Creek WMA, roads in this WMA are clearly labeled.

When we returned from Mill Rd, we drove north on Shoal Rd to North Gate Rd and south to the end of North Gate Road before driving north out of the Atlanta Tract.

Shoal Creek Ford. I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo at the top of the ledge before we descended to the creek. It is quite a steep descent, probably two to three times the climb out on the north side ahead of us and there were no guidance regarding the depth of the water. The ford looked quite deep and we sat a while before deciding to cross. W said the water reached the floor boards and the brakes were affected a little so this is a ford to assess carefully before crossing.

Looking upstream (east) from the ford as we crossed it. The ripples are from our movement; the water was quite still when we began the crossing.

Looking downstream from the ford. The water is flowing quite rapidly over the curb. The green bushes on the embankment in the distance looked like rhododendrons.

We saw several seed heads of Asclepias species that we guessed were A. viridiflora (Green Comet Milkweed) based on their stalks. We saw a few near the junction of Clark and Reservoir Roads as well as this one on North Gate Road.

We found this sign rather amusing although it is quite an important and very, very practical
sign. The tract has a complex series of hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails. Horses and mountain bikers are not allowed to use the road beyond this sign. Horses are travelling slowly enough that their riders would see the small trail marker sign that tells them where the trail leaves the road and that they cannot continue along the gravel road. Mountain bikers, on the hand, would be travelling fast enough down the hill that they would likely miss the trail marker sign but they could not miss this sign.

I’d never thought much about how Lycopodium digitatum (Fan Clubmoss) plants spread. This image shows the runner system quite clearly.

We continued down North Gate Rd to the ledge above the Etowah River. The clouds had cleared for a short while and the woods looked a little less forlorn than at the end of Mill Rd.

North Gate Road ended near this old railway bridge. Only the bridge skeleton remains. It looks like this railroad supplied the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory.

The road is closed at the bridge. The hiking, equestrian, mountain biking trail cross the Etowah River along to the left.

The sign for the river ford.

The trail down to the river. There was a very narrow ‘beach’ above the water.

The Etowah River, looking upstream from the north side of the Etowah River Ford.

Looking across the Etowah River to the south side of the river. The water varied in depth. It looked about 1.5 to 2 feet deep at a rock-covered bar about one-third of the way across but deeper in other parts. I didn’t feel the water temperature but it looked cold. It would be an interesting crossing walking or carrying a bicycle. This looked like a ford for the summer but not now.

On the surface, the Altanta Tract of the Dawson Forest WMA allows most access to this area. It’ll be interesting to return in the Spring when the hepatica blooms and see else emerges then.

Click on an image to view a larger image

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Lycopodium digitatum (Fan Clubmoss) [United States] [
- University of North Carolina Herbarium:
Lycopodium digitatum

Identification resources:
- Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia:
Lycopodium digitatum (Common Running-cedar, Fan Ground-pine, Common Running-pine)

Related posts:
- Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, Atlanta Tract: Mil Road and Railroad Road

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