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Awesome Autumn in the Paint Rock

October 18, 2016

This post was contributed by guest author Mike Dalen.


Another awesome autumn day in the Nature Conservancy in Alabama’s Roy B. Whitaker Preserve along the Paint Rock River, that 45-mile-long biological mecca visited by aquatic scientists from around the globe. Your local Land Trust partners with the Nature Conservancy to maintain the 323-acre bottomland refuge.

Land Trust Land Manager Andy Prewett and I spent half a day tacking up brand new trail markers a couple weeks back. I returned with the hounds Saturday to do some scouting. We were the only ones there– which is the norm, even on a weekend. There’s an easy bird-watching hike led by John Ehinger scheduled for Saturday, November 12, if you want a guided tour.

Cole Spring is still bubbling up clean clear water in the old oxbows, former paths of the Paint Rock. Lots of wildlife like deer, turtles, herons and kingfishers; and bog plants like arrowhead and cardinal flower. Didn’t see a single snake — very strange given the drought and the oasis of the spring.

Gonna need an army to annhilate the black locust and invasive trifoliate orange. Below is the orange– 15′ high and 2″ thorns. Fruits are about an inch in diameter.

The Paint Rock is low and slow this time of year, only 2-3 feet deep. But the steep, 20′-high banks leave no doubt spring floods have been at work for decades. Found a leopard frog basking on a sandy beach, and a 6-inch clam shell. There’s more than 50 species of clams and mussels, and 100+ species of fish in this short Tennessee River tributary. A real biological hot spot.

Mark your calendars — on Saturday, October 29, I’ll be leading a Land Trust hike into the Walls of Jericho, where the headwaters of the Paint Rock begin. We’ll go in on the Tennessee side, and out the Alabama trail. Hope to see you there!

Happy trails,
Mike… & Keb & Nina the Rhodesian Ridgebacks