Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vanishing Habitat Walk at Sprewell Bluff State Park

Join a guided tour with a park ranger on a trail that transverses a globally imperiled habitat – the Montane Longleaf Pine Woodland. Participants will meet at the main parking area near the river at 10:00 am, June 6, 2009. This hike is part of National Trails Day, an event sponsored by the American Hiking Society. There is a $3.00 charge for the hike, and a $5.00 daily park pass fee. The hike will cover about two miles, and lead participants through a variety of habitats, from the river bottomlands, to the unique upland Longleaf community. All wildlife, from birds to dragonflies to butterflies will be discussed on this interpretive walk.

Why is this habitat so important?

The Montane Longleaf Community found at Sprewell Bluff, and the Natural areas across the river, are a rocky slope, ridge top community that is composed of Longleaf Pine, Shortleaf Pine, Sand Hickory, Post Oak, Chestnut Oak, Sparkleberry, and a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. Before European Settlement, natural fires, and fires set by Native Americans, maintained this community. But, with settlement, the old Longleaf Pine was turpentined, logged, or began to disappear as the land was farmed and used as grazing area for cattle. Fire was suppressed, and without fire, other trees like Loblolly Pine, less fire resistant oaks, and sweetgum moved in, and eventually, changed the habitat. Now, only puzzle pieces, little remnants of what used to be, survive as clues about what the forest looked like long ago.

The Department of Natural Resources Non-Game Wildlife Program has begun an ambitious effort to restore what is left. By prescribe Burning, thinning Loblolly Pine, and replanting Longleaf Pine, the native grasses and wildflowers are coming back in under the opening canopy, and young Longleaf Pine are waiting to reclaim their spot back in the forest. To see our efforts, and learn more about this rare ecosystem, join us on this hike and many others to come at Sprewell Bluff State Park.

To find out more information about these programs, or about Sprewell Bluff State Park, please call the park office at 706-746-6026 or talk to a park ranger at the park. For information on these or other programs happening at other parks, please visit www.gastateparks.org.
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