Acquired in 2005, what was once a cattle pasture has been actively restored to floodplain forests grasslands, which are critical, but declining habitats in the Tennessee Valley. with the re-introduction of native grasses and hardwoods, as well as the restoration of Cole Springs Branch to its original path, many animals are returning to the preserve. It is a favorite spot on the North Alabama Birding Trail.
Why You Should Visit
This preserve is an ideal destination for the casual observer who wants to experience north Alabama's scenery and wildlife. Wildlife are sometimes easier to spot on the open fields of the preserve, and even the untrained eye can see many birds that hunt and nest in the prairie. With a little bit of luck, you may catch a glimpse of deer, snakes, or even a coyote. Colorful wildflowers also dot the grasses, and a shaded trail runs alongside Cole Springs Branch. An old cemetery on the property is also open to explore.
Jackson County, AL (along Highway 72, between Scottsboro and Huntsville in the town of Paint Rock).
Why the Conservancy Selected this Site
With over a mile and half of Paint Rock River frontage, the Whitaker Preserve is a key component in the Conservancy's effort to preserve and restore as much of the Paint Rock River watershed as possible. It is also an ideal site on which to restore some of the original floodplain forests (which had been cleared for agricultural purposes).
What the Conservancy is Doing
This site is being actively managed through prescribed fires, re-introduction of native species of grasses and trees, and controlling invasive species of plants. Not long after the site was acquired, the Conservancy returned Cole Springs Branch to its original path, and is now working with residents in the surrounding community to remove low-water crossings, restore stream banks and additional floodplain forests that inhibit migration of species through its waters.
What to see: Plants
Many native, warm-season grasses grow in the area, as well as many native hardwoods.
What to see: Animals
This site is a must-see for anybody who enjoys bird-watching. A huge variety of birds may be seen here year-round. Great Blue Heron, Green Herons, Great Egrets, Belted Kingfishers, Blue-winged Teals, Mergansers, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Harrier Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Barred owls and Bald Eagles are just a few of the many birds that have been spotted at this preserve. White-tailed deer, turkeys and the occasional coyote may also be seen among the tall grasses.
The Nature Conservancy is in the process of creating nature trails throughout the property. Long pants are recommended (these also help minimize contact with poison ivy). In the summer months, sunscreen is highly recommended (as a large portion of the site is not shaded), as is bug spray. Be sure to check yourself for ticks upon leaving.
Take I-65 North toward Huntsville.
Take Exit #340 to merge onto I-565 East toward Huntsville.
I-565 will end. Continue onto US-72 East for about 17 miles.
Entrance to the Preserve will be a few hundred yards past County Road 65. The Preserve will be on your left and you must make a U-turn to get back to the entrance (follow signs for the North Alabama Birding Trail).