CROOKED RIVER STATE PARK
Located on Georgia?s Colonial Coast, this park offers cozy facilities in a beautiful setting. Campsites are surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oaks, while cottages are set near the river. A nature trail winds through maritime forest and salt marsh, and hikers may see gopher tortoises, fiddler crabs, herons and other coastal birds. The park?s nature center features fish, snakes, turtles and other animals native to this part of Georgia. A boat ramp is popular with anglers who often take to the water before sunrise. Birding enthusiasts will enjoy the large bird blind that provides close views of painted buntings, redwing black birds and other species. Visitors may venture to the nearby ruins of the tabby ?McIntosh Sugar Works? mill, built around 1825 and later used as a starch factory during the Civil War. Nearby is the ferry and visitor center for famous Cumberland Island National Seashore known for wild horses and mansion ruins.
Crooked River State Park is located near Fernandina Beach, Kingsland and Saint Marys
This 1.5-mile trail introduces you to the south Georgia Pine Flatwoods. An ecosystem whose 98% decline is one of the most severe of any ecosystem on earth. Fire is essential for maintaining this rare ecosystem dominated by Longleaf Pine, Saw Palmetto, and Wire Grass. Its plants and animals are well adapted to periodic low intensity fires. The open woods are ideal for bird watching in early morning and before sunset while the sandy soil is great for tracking wildlife. Common birds are Eastern Towhee, Blue Birds, Nuthatch, Osprey, many woodpeckers, and warblers. Many fruit bearing plants can be found in the understory such as Blueberries, Muscadine Grapes, Catbrier, Sparkleberry, Wax Myrtle, and Gull Berry. Endangered species such as the Gopher Tortoise and the Eastern Indigo Snake depend on this habitat for survival.
As you walk along the trail you will notice the old growth hardwoods, which give this trail the name Sempervirens. Follow the trail back and you will notice the forest becoming more dense. Large oak, cherry, and hickory trees make up the canopy along the nature loop portion of the trail. The calcium-rich soil that nurtures these large hardwoods comes from oyster shells left behind by the Native Americans of this area. Over time the oyster shells have been decomposing and depositing calcium into the soil.
Other plants and trees that grow in the rich soil include: Southern Magnolia, Godfrey Swamp Privet, Red Cedar, American Basswood, and Yaupon Holly. The Sempervirens Trail also boasts 5 Georgia State Champion trees: the Staggerbush Lyonia, Florida Soapberry, Myrtle Oak, Chapman Oak, and Carolina Holly.
As you leave the dense hardwoods and continue into the pine-oak forest, you may encounter a gopher tortoise ? Georgia?s state reptile. They prefer the sandy soils to dig their burrows and the low growing grasses to feed on. Other animals that can be spotted along the Sempervirens include: armadillos, feral hogs, raccoons, and orb weaver spiders.
The Sempervirens Trail also offers a birding platform. The platform provides a good view of the salt marsh as well as an opportunity to look for birds. Some of the birds you may see include: Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Osprey, Pileated Woodpeckers, White-Eyed Vireo, and Warblers.
This trail is short and sweet. Only a few hundred yards long it winds along the bluff and down into the marsh. It is a beautiful spot for fishing and bird watching. Wood Storks and herons roost in the dead pines overlooking the rivers edge. Sheepshead, Whiting, Trout, Black Drum, rays and small sharks can be caught from the shore. This quiet spot overlooks the Crooked River and golden marsh grasses which are famous to Georgia?s coast.
BAY BOARDWALK TRAIL
The boardwalk takes you into a Bay Forest ecosystem. This hardwood and evergreen wetland is dominated by two species of trees; Loblolly and Swamp Bay. Even during the winter months, this bay forest appears as a wall of dark green, dense foliage. Typical swamps in South Georgia contain cypress and gum trees and appear bare and open during winter months. As you enter the Bay Forest, notice how the tree canopy gets taller and thicker, shading the forest floor. During the summer months the shade provided by the trees is noticeably cooler and feels humid.
Although the creek bottom appears mucky the creek water is surprisingly clear, even after heavy rainfall. The water in the creek comes from rainfall and seepage from the surrounding sandy soil of the pine forest. The remains of decaying trees and leaf litter form a layer of peat on the forest floor. This peat layer can be many feet thick. The soil in the Bay Forest is strongly acidic, sandy and high in organic matter. It holds water like a sponge, which enables it to support the many wetland plants that are not found in the surrounding pine forest.
Located 7 miles north of St. Marys on Ga. Spur 40 or 8 miles east of I-95 exit 3.