Fifty National Wildlife Refuges are located within our Blue Ridge region. The majority are located along the coast, where they were established to provide habitat for waterfowl migrating along the Great Atlantic Flyway. However, at this time of year, I’m suggesting you visit one of the inland refuges that was created for additional purposes.
My first reason for you to visit the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is that it was established as habitat for neotropical birds, which are migrating through the area from now into late April. Secondly, this is also when the red-cockaded woodpecker takes up housekeeping here, increasing your chances of seeing the endangered bird. The third reason? The refuge is in central Georgia, meaning temperatures are currently warmer than they are in the mountains, but still cool enough to keep at bay most of summer’s horde of chiggers and ticks. (Note “most.” Be sure to carry repellent for the insects that refuse to recognize that operative word.)
The refuge has five miles of official trails going by a lake and into a woodpecker nesting site. If you need more hiking, there are dozens of miles of dirt roads reaching into every corner of the 35,000 acres inhabited by wild turkeys, squirrels, beavers, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and bobcats.
This place is also a lesson in the regenerative power of nature. Although there is a lush pine and hardwood forest today, when the refuge was established in the 1930s, the trees had been completely cut by early settlers and cotton and other farming had robbed the ground of nutrients, creating widespread erosion.
The website www.fws.gov/piedmont contains a refuge map and background information.
On a side note:
As a participant in the Virginia Festival of the Book, I will be doing two presentations at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Charlottesville. On Thursday, March 18, at 8pm, it will be a presentation based upon my newest book, Images of America: Along Virginia’s Appalachian Trail. On Friday, March 19, at 8pm. the presentation will be “Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail.” Hope to see some of you there.