Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we paid our $5 parking fee, picked up a Park Trail Map, bought a couple of postcards, and spoke to a ranger. She provided us with information about the hiking trails here, Nature Center, and campground (both tent and RV sites). Only water and electric hookups are available for RVs, although they are planning to add a sewage hookups to a few sites in the near future.
We decided to hike the Sempervirens Trail to the Birding Platform and Nature Trail. As we drove along the road to the trailhead, though, we stopped at the River Trail to walk the short distance (a few hundred yards) to the Crooked River.
There are five nice cottages (for rent) along the park road here. Across the street is a Gopher Tortoise nesting area where we saw this beauty (used zoom lens) from the edge of it.
There are only 5 types of tortoises remaining in North America, and this is the only one that resides east of the Mississippi River. They are listed as a Threatened Species and are found primarily in the southeastern part of the US (GA, FL, MS, LA, AL) in sandy, well-drained soil. As the name suggests, these tortoise live in burrows that they dig and share with many other animals (mice, burrowing owls, snakes, frogs, armadillo, gopher cricket and more). The burrows are up to 40' deep and 10' deep and are wide enough for the tortoise to turn around in (as there is only one entrance). We were thrilled to see one in the wild!
We continued on to the trailhead of the Semipervirens Trail (meaning "everliving" in Latin). You can pick up a trail brochure at the beginning of the trail here. The trail meanders through a Coastal Shell Midden Forest, a hardwood forest that grows on the remains of oyster shells. The shells were left here hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. The decayed shells made the soil rich with calcium that enabled plants to grow here that are not normally found in South Georgia.
We followed the trail to the Wildlife Viewing Platform through a thicket of Saw Palmettos. We noticed several bat houses as well.
And then we came to the beautiful view of the marsh and river beyond. Our sweet doggy, Sadie, enjoyed taking in the view from the platform as well!
There are small mounds of oyster shells in the forest that are protected by boardwalks. The shell fragments are visible everywhere in these areas even though they were piled up here hundreds of years ago by the Guale people who harvested the shellfish from the river.
Smooth Cordgrass is the primary species that grows in the salt marsh seen along the trail. We saw holes of the small wharf crabs in the muddy area of the marsh, but, alas, none came out to greet us.
We always enjoy seeing these crazy tree formations in our travels. Aren't they fascinating?
Sadie smelled this armadillo on the first floor. He quickly ran away! Can you see him in the photo below?
Next, Sadie, found this interesting hole (a gopher tortoise burrow). Before we could stop her, she stuck her nose as far into it as she could! Crazy dog! Fortunately, nothing bit her on the nose.
We also saw many beautiful butterflies in the forest.
Our final stop for the day was the Nature Center. They have a variety of animals found in the park on display.
I loved these lovely purple flowers in a nearby field that had so many butterflies on them.
There is boat launch into the river from the park. Many enjoy kayaking trips along the various trails on the Crooked River. And with more hiking trails in the park, we will likely visit again before leaving the area. There is also a miniature golf course here (free) that I would like to check out, too!
For additional information about park activities and the campground, check out their website at www.gastateparks.org.