Moody Forest Natural Area is named for the Moody family, which arrived in Appling County in the mid-1800s and spent much of the next century on the land, living amongst the longleaf pine trees and alongside the Altamaha River.
Visit the preserve to hike its trails, though, and its name takes on a whole different meaning, one that perfectly encapsulates the ethereal beauty of the 4,426-acre wilderness. Old-growth longleaf and slash pines rise to guard the misty waters of the Altamaha River as it carves through cypress and tupelo swamps. Sunshine filters through dogwoods and basket oaks, tossing light and shadows onto fallen leaves. The sounds of nature are constant: the low call of wild turkeys, the echo of red-cockaded woodpeckers at work and the wind in the high canopy of longleaf pines.
A Legacy of Protection
The Moody family knew that the land they owned was special, and through the generations, they made the best choices they could to retain the natural beauty of the forest. In 2000, the property passed to 32 descendants of the original Moody settlers, and they decided to auction the land. The Nature Conservancy outbid a number of timber industry representatives and entered into a groundbreaking public/private land-management partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to create and manage the preserve.
While the Conservancy plans and implements conservation strategies, DNR rangers patrol the site and volunteers help with trail creation, facility construction and tree planting. The Conservancy and the DNR also cooperate to maintain a regular regimen of prescribed fire on the property. In just a decade, those efforts have greatly improved the quality of forest habitat, restored native plant and animal communities and increased the overall diversity of life found on the preserve.
A Public Treasure
Perhaps most importantly, the preserve has been opened to the public, providing the opportunity for thousands of visitors to explore one of Georgia’s most unique and beautiful landscapes.
Two interpretive trails (download trail maps) curl through the preserve, offering more than five miles of year-round hiking—and the chance to spot rare and imperiled species like gopher tortoises and Eastern indigo snakes. Guided tours are offered for educational groups and seasonal hunting is allowed in accordance with state game regulations.
Visitors today—much like the Moodys of yesteryear—will find themselves enchanted by the atmospheric beauty of this forest and all it shelters.
How Fire Can Restore a Forest: A Time-Lapse
In March 2013, photographer Rich Reid joined fireworkers as they conducted a controlled burn at Georgia's Moody Forest Preserve. He left his cameras rolling for nearly two months to capture the stunning regrowth of the longleaf pine habitat.
Two months of time lapse video captures the stunning regrowth of the longleaf pine habitat at Moody Forest.
If You Go
The preserve is open to the public and contains two interpretive walking trails. For more information, contact the preserve manager at (912) 366-9549.
Animals At Risk
Plants at Risk
Ecosystems at Risk
- Longleaf pine-blackjack oak woodland
- Cypress-tupelo sloughs
- Bottomland hardwood forests
- Hardwood bluff forest
From Baxley (about 15 minutes):
- From the main intersection of US 341 and US 1 in town, travel north on US 1 7.6 miles to Asbury Church Rd, and turn right.
- Travel down Asbury Church Rd. 1.7 miles to Spring Branch Rd., and turn left (dirt road).
- Travel down Spring Branch Rd. 0.8 mile and turn right onto East River Rd. (dirt road).
- Travel down East River Rd. 0.7 mile; just past the “Tavia’s Trail” parking lot, stay left to remain on East River Rd.; travel 1.0 mile and turn left into The Nature Conservancy office parking lot.
From Atlanta (allow approximately 3.5 hours travel time):
- Take I-75 South to Macon, about 80 miles
- Take I-16 East (Exit 165) on the left towards Savannah; stay on I-16 for 90 miles
- Take the US Hwy. 1/state route 4 exit (Exit 90) to Lyons
- Turn right off the exit ramp onto US 1/SR 4 south
- Stay on this road for approximately 35 miles, passing through the town of Lyons, to the Altamaha River bridge
- Continue another 3.0 miles past the bridge, and watch on the left for Asbury Church Road
- Turn left at Asbury Church Rd and follow directions from #2 above.