Monday, August 20, 2007

Augusta Springs Wetlands ... the tour

Augusta County Wetlands is a natural area located along Rt. 42 South of Buffalo Gap in Augusta County. The location of a long-gone hotel in the late 1800s, it is now an area to stop and enjoy what nature has to offer.

The two-thirds mile easy loop trail is fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers and leads you through meadows, forests, and wetlands. You can look at a beaver's handiwork, smell pine needles baking in the sun, hear a songbird, and dip your hand in a cool mountain spring. For generations, the Springs have drawn people to these wonderful wetlands. Look for historic reminders as you walk the trail.
Picnic tables (2) are available under the shade of the 100+ -year-old maple trees. The grass is maintained -- mowed and trimmed -- with a grassy area for romping kids. A pit toilet is on the grounds as well as bear-proof trash cans. Open year-round, trail brochures are located at the beginning of the boardwalk.

Stop 1: A Grocery Store for Wildlife

Habitat is a home for wildlife. Here they find food, water, shelter, and space. As the seasons change, so must the food animals eat. The plants in this field are changing constantly. What animals do you think are attracted to these plants growing now in this wildlife grocery store?

Stop 2: Augusta White Lithia Springs

Millionaire E. G. Pendleton bought this land in 1900 and converted the Augusta Springs Resort into his home. A cement slab is all that remains of a once active bottling plant. The remains are now used by male woodcocks as a platform for their fascinating ritual mating display.

Stop 3: Living on the Edge

The unique area between two different habitats is called an ecotone or edge. It has a rich diversity of plants and animals. As you walk to the next stop, note the difference in smell and temperature. How do the pine needles feel under your feet?

Stop 4: Water! A Natural Magnet!

Feel the cool and refreshing water? Water is necessary for all life. It provides food and shelter for many plants, aquatic insects, and animals. Some insects even live under the rocks in the stream! What might happen to these insects if this stream dried up or flooded?

Stop 5: Entering Quiet Zone

Ssssh! Babies could be sleeping! The wood duck uses a hollow tree on the edge of water to raise young ducklings. The box in the pond provides a substitute nesting habitat for the wood stuck. What other animals might raise their young here along the water's edge?

Stop 6: Baffling Nature's Engineers!

Beavers love a wetland habitat! They spend most of their lives in water, eat the bark off trees, and cut trees and shrubs to build their dams and lodges. Sometimes this causes an area to flood, which can damage people's houses and properties. The Forest Service is attempting to baffle the beavers by placing plastic tubes through the dam and allowing the water to continue down the stream so the beavers can live here, too.

Stop 7: Too Soggy for Trees

The plants growing here have adapted to life in constantly wet soil. Can you smell the water? If this meadow dried up, it would eventually become a forest. Why aren't there very many trees here now? Trees need sun, space, nutrients, and water -- but not too much water, or their roots will drown.

Stop 8: Water, Water Everywhere!

From this point you can see the variety of life that exists in and around a wetland. As you move uphill, there is less water in the soil. This means larger trees are better able to grow. Here we may find walnut, oak, and maple trees. What would happen to all these different habitats if water wasn't there?

Stop 9: Life Around A Pond

This pond was built in cooperation with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Ducks Unlimited, and the Forest Service. Designed to provide essential habitat for ducks and other wildlife, this pond attracts a variety of animals. Can you hear or see any of the pond inhabitants?

Stop 10: Remnants of the Past

This spring runs year-round. Over time it has attracted not only animals but people as well. These bridge were rebuilt near the site of an old hotel. Across the trail you can see the remains of a smokehouse used during the 1900s. This is a protected area. Please view the archaeological remains from a distance and leave all artifacts where you find them.

Stop 11: Augusta Springs Resort Hotel

Today all that remains of the resort are a few stone walls and the memories of old-timers who visited the hotel to enjoy the springs. This is the spot of the original pond. Can you imagine the horse-drawn carriages riding through the tree-lined lane to the front door of the resort? How might the area have looked 100 years ago?
Photos by SWAC Girl

No comments: