by Laura Hall
Fish weirs were built by the Cherokee people by piling rocks and boulders across the river in a distinctive V shape. They were able to trap and catch fish as they swam into the V, which points downstream and a wooden trap was placed at the apex, or the fish could be speared.
Recently I hiked with landowners, Sandy and Ken Cook, along with 15 land trust members through sloped forest on the Middle Oconee River where we saw a large fish weir spanning almost half of the river.
This forest preserved by the family has so much diversity- we saw many interesting species including: White fringetree, Carolina silverbell, serviceberry, green and white ash, Carolina basswood, mountain laurel, Piedmont azalea, Solomon’s seal, partridge berry, and spotted wintergreen. Walt Cook, former ORLT Board member, preserved this land with a conservation easement in 2000, and recently passed this land down to his son’s family. We are continuing to work with nearby landowners to hopefully conserve more than 400 acres along this river. (Last year we preserved a 105-acre property across the river from the Cook property). This land is in Jackson County just over the Clarke County line, and only 20 minutes from Downtown Athens.
Note that these lands along the river contain a diversity of priority habitats for the Piedmont of Georgia including both riparian and upland areas: Sandy River Bluffs, Rocky or Cobbly River Shoals, Freshwater Marsh, Springs and Spring Runs, Cobbly wide Bottomland Hardwood Forest, Mesic Hardwood Forest, Canebrakes, and Oak-Hickory Pine Forest. A variety of habitats that help plants and wildlife thrive.
“Let’s retain habitat for creatures who migrate between the two ecosystems. Some live in the swamp but require uplands for reproduction-turtles, for egg laying, for example. Some live in the uplands but require wetlands for reproduction-like flatwood salamanders" - Janisse Ray
Check out the rest of the ORLT Fall 2021 newsletter here.