One of the newest Georgia State Parks is nestled around a bend of the Chattahoochee River near Newnan in Coweta County. At 2910 acres, it is also one of the biggest, stretching for 7 miles along the river.
I didn’t know much about the park plant-wise, but I figured that it was worth a trip to check it out and went on the spur of the moment last week; my daughter gamely tagged along.
Once we exited I-20, it was still a long drive along quiet country roads to get to the park. We entered the park from Flat Rock Rd, but it didn’t occur to me what that meant. There is actually an outcrop in the park and you can explore it from Trailhead 1 which you reach before you even get to the Visitor Center. The area was crowded with participants in the Georgia Orienteering Club, so we kept going, but I noticed yellow flowers along the road there and vowed to stop by on the way out.
After a brief stop at the Visitor Center, we headed for the Day Use Area down by the river to find the trail that went along the river.
We lingered briefly by the boat ramp to examine a climbing vine that I later found out is climbing buckwheat (Fallopia scandens). Small white asters (Symphyotrichum sp.) were still blooming and bluemist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) was here and there until the shade of the Riverwalk Trail took over. The woods were filled with trees that were familiar to me: American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), box elder (Acer negundo), and later big patches of paw paw (Asimina triloba), large river birch (Betula nigra), hackberry (Celtis sp.), maples and oaks. We even saw an American hazelnut (Corylus americana).
|Climbing buckwheat (Fallopia scandens)|
|Hazelnut (Corylus americana)|
The trail is very close to the river and abundant stretches of river cane (Arundinaria sp.) were there. Sprinkled throughout were the fading blooms of white snakeroot (Ageratina sp). Also long past bloom was wingstem (Verbesina sp.) with just enough faded petals to recognize it was one of the yellow flowered ones. The bridges constructed along the walk were very well done. One tall bridge was flanked by two large deciduous hollies (Ilex decidua) so it was easy to get a good picture of the fruit. We walked as far as the observation tower which unfortunately does not have a good view of the river but would be fun for kids.
|River cane (Arundinaria)|
|Wood oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)|
We turned back to try to find the beaver ponds via the Wild Turkey Trail but only walked along a dry trail with beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and Christmas ferns that led back to the road. With not enough time to go further on the Riverside Trail (and no apparent way to drive to another portion), we decided to head back and stop where the yellow flowers were.
|Fameflower (Phemeranthus teretifolius)|
As I looked around, I found other special plants such as the fleshy leaves of quill fameflower (Phemeranthus teretifolius) and prickly cactus (Opuntia sp.). After I got home, I found references that elf orpine (Diamorpha smallii) blooms there in the spring, another outcrop special plant.
It looks like a spring trip back to the park might be in order so that not only can I finish the Riverwalk Trail, but also spend time on the Flat Rock Trail as well. How wonderful that this area was protected!