Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a 3,485-acre park on the western edge of Lookout Mountain in Dade County. It has deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, beautiful creeks and abundant spring wildflowers. I have heard about it for many years as a wildflower hotspot, but this was my first visit to the park. It certainly lived up to its reputation.

Hemlock Falls, as view through a group of hemlocks
Cloudland Canyon became a state park in 1939 and has expanded several times from its original size of 1,924 acres. Its remote location in the furthest northwest county in Georgia was once only accessible from other states! The construction of Highway 136 finally made it possible to reach it from Georgia. The canyon was formed by the waters of Daniel and Bear Creeks which later converge to form Sitton Gulch Creek. Walks along these boulder-strewn, cascading creeks are quite scenic.

Cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Southern red trillium (Trillium sulcatum)

Yellowroot at waters edge (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)
We took the West Rim Loop Trail for a short distance until it intersected with the Waterfall Trail and then descended the 600 steps and joined up with Sitton’s Gulch Trail. The Waterfall Trail was indeed beautiful but strenuous. We passed huge rock cliffs and outcrops, including one that was dripping with water. Shrubs that we saw included southern bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla rivularis), mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima). Spring ephemerals included sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta), rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum), yellow mandarin (Prosartes maculata), several species of violets, early meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), Southern red trillium (Trillium sulcatum), star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), and more.

Spring beauty (Claytonia)
Northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)

Wild oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
As we joined Sitton’s Gulch Trail, a spring beauty with wide leaves was spotted and discussed. While it appeared to be Claytonia caroliniana, more research seems to be required. It was very happy there. Huge slopes to our left were so crowded with boulders that plants were not even growing among them in places. The creek on our right was loudly rushing through its own collection of boulders. Eventually we came to areas rich with Christmas fern punctuated with trilliums (T. cuneatum and T. sulcatum), jacks (Arisaema triphyllum), foamflower, northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), yellow mandarin, and slender toothwort (Cardamine angustata). We found shrubs like gooseberry (Ribes cynosbati), fragrant sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), and I was very excited to see oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) in the wild!

Forkleaf toothwort (Cardamine dissecta)
Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne)

Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)
Woodland stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)

Sitton’s Gulch Trail passes through some rather flat areas towards the end. We found dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata), fernleaf phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida), woodland stonecrop (Sedum ternatum), trailing trillium (T. decumbens), woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), spotted geranium (Geranium maculatum), two kinds of bellwort (Uvularia), and huge patches of Canadian white violet (Viola canadensis). A couple of special plants that we found included a few left over blooms on American trout lily (Erythronium americanum) and a few early blooms of dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne). We found our third toothwort, “forkleaf” toothwort (Cardamine dissecta) in small patches.

It's a great place to see some of our best spring wildflowers and I look forward to going back again one day.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Ellen. I have Forkleaf toothwort growing all over my yard but couldn't find any information on it. (I have several of these wildflowers growing wild after I stopped mowing and raking!) Glad to learn which toothwort this is! (Hixson, TN)