November 2021

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

Native American History in the CRNRA 

Native American communities have a long history in the CRNRA, with prehistoric people settling along the river over 10,000 years ago. The indigenous people thrived in this area because of the plentiful resources found there. The river provided water, food, and a means of transportation. The great biodiversity of plants and animals provided natural resources for food, clothing, and medicine. Rock overhangs provided shelter. Abundant trees provided firewood and materials for tools and other needs. Tulip trees were their choice for dugout canoes, and sweet birch was used as toothbrushes.

Their diet consisted mainly of venison, fish, and maize. White tail deer were their principle animal food source. Every part of the deer was used, providing meat, skin, antlers, intestines, etc. Fish weirs were constructed in the river to trap fish as they swam downstream. The Native Americans grew nutritious crops known as the three sisters: corn, squash, and beans. To maximize the land for agriculture, they would plant corn, plant beans around the corn, and then cover the ground between with squash to minimize weeds. They also collected nuts and other foraged edibles.

There were many different Creek tribes, all sharing common language and culture. The British called them Creeks because they tended to live along streams. The Cherokee came to the area about 1500 years ago from the north and invaded Creek lands. Native American villages were scattered along both sides of the river.

When the British arrived, they traded rifles for deer skins. As more White settlers moved into the area, they wanted the Native American lands. Multiple attempts were made to coerce the indigenous people to give up their ancestral lands, reinforced with violence from the settlers and brutal campaigns against them from the Army. In the 18th and 19th century, white settlers divided the land, displacing the Native American tribes. The tribes were forcibly removed from their homes and made to walk over 1,000 miles to relocate to a government created “Indian territory” in present day Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died during the journey along what is now known as the Trail of Tears. To learn more about the Trail of Tears, go to For information on Trail of Tears National Historic Park and portions of the trail in Georgia, go to

Photo at Island Ford by Barnard

History Walks: Rock Shelters at Island Ford and Cochran Shoals

Indigenous communities were located throughout the park. If you would like to see some of the specific areas where they lived, there are several rock shelters visible along trails.

At Island Ford, take the trail behind Hewlett Lodge down to river and turn left to head downstream. Enjoy a peaceful walk through the trees along the river with beautiful views and opportunities to spot multiple bird species. There are two naturally occurring rock overhangs along the trail that were used continuously by Native Americans as shelters for about 10,000 years. The first overhang will be on the left, with places for shelter easily visible. Stay on the trail to reach the second rock shelter, which sits next to a small stream.

For those looking for a short walk, there is a rock shelter at Cochran Shoals close to the Interstate North parking lot. From the parking lot, take the fitness trail along the river a short distance to the picnic tables on the left. Right past the tables on the left there is a large rock overhang that provided shelter for Native Americans.

Photos at Island Ford and Cochran Shoals by Barnard

Treasures on the Trails: Hickory Nuts and Black Walnuts

Hickory and Black Walnut trees are found throughout the CRNRA and were extremely important to the indigenous people for a variety of uses. They collected hickory nuts and black walnuts for use as important sources of protein, flour, and oil for cooking. The nuts were first cracked and boiled in water. The woody parts floated to the surface and were removed, leaving the nut meat in the bottom and the oil floating on the surface. The meat was used for soup and the oil collected for cooking. Flat rocks were used as nutcrackers and to grind dry nut meat into flour to make a flat bread. Importantly, the nuts could be stored for long periods. Black walnut hulls were also used as a dye.

Photo of hickory nuts by woolcallerbee

Exploring National Parks in Georgia: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park in Macon, Georgia is a prehistoric Native American site with 17,000 years of continuous human habitation. Multiple indigenous cultures occupied the land over thousands of years. Native Americans first arrived here during the Paleo-Indian Period to hunt Ice Age mammals. Starting in the Mississippian Period around 900 CE, the indigenous people constructed large earth mounds for burying their elite. Some of these mounds remain and can be viewed by park visitors.

Visitors can visit the Earth Lodge, which is a short walk from the Visitor Center parking lot. The lodge offers a view of the ancient past with the original clay floor built by the indigenous people. The floor is dated, using carbon dating techniques, at the year 1015. The interior consists of a reconstructed council chamber of the Mississippian culture, with the walls and ceiling reconstructed in the late 1930’s by Civilian Conservation Corp and Works Project Administration crews under the direction of Archeologist A.R. Kelly.

In addition to the historic site, the 702 acre park encompasses beautiful forests and wetlands with a diversity of wildlife and numerous species of birds. For more information and to plan a visit, go to For more information on the park’s history, go to

Photo by Ken Lund

Birds in the Park: Red-headed Woodpeckers

The strikingly beautiful Red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes eryhrocephalus), sometimes called a "flying checkerboard," has a completely crimson head, a white body, and half white, half black wings. Unlike other woodpeckers, they catch insects in the air and eat acorns and beech nuts, storing extra food for later in tree crevices. One of only four North American woodpeckers known to store food, the Red-headed Woodpecker hides insects and seeds in cracks and crevices in trees and even constructed wood like fenceposts. The woodpeckers cover the food with wood or bark or secure food tightly in cracks so other birds cannot find or remove them. Live grasshoppers are stored alive but wedged into tree crevices so they cannot escape.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are an ancient species, with up to 2 million-year- old Pleistocene-age fossils found in several Southern and Midwest states. They were important in Native American culture, including the local Cherokee, as a symbol of war.

Red-headed woodpeckers can be found in various parts of the CRNRA, including Paces Mill, and are easily spotted by their bright red heads. Due to habitat loss and changes in its food supply, the species has declined severely in the past half-century and needs habitat protection. For more information on Red-headed Woodpeckers and to hear their call, go to

Photo by Andy Morffew

Family Fun: Enjoying a Fall Trail Walk

Looking to add some fun to your family trail walk? Pack a few extra items in your backpack.

1.     Take a clipboard, paper, and crayons. Clip two sheets of paper to the clipboard, then slip one of the many colorful leaves lying on the ground in between the two sheets of paper and have your child rub a crayon over it for an instant work of art. Let them experiment with different leaves and crayon colors.

2.    Pack a magnifying glass and binoculars. Let your kids look for birds with the binoculars and bugs with the magnifying glass. For older kids, take a basic field guide to identify the birds and insects.

3.     Use the magnifying glass to explore fallen logs. Look for lichens in an array of colors and textures and gently touch the soft moss.

4.    Count how many different types of mushrooms you see.

5.    Collect colorful leaves in a Ziplock bag. Take them home to make a collage.

Photo by emmacraig1

    HikeCRNRA Update

    Fall is a beautiful time to be in the Park! As we approach Thanksgiving, we should all be grateful for the opportunity to have a national park so close to where we live and for those who worked to make CRNRA a reality in the 70’s. HikeCRNRA can be the motivator to see all that our park has to offer and to introduce friends and family to the park as we gather for the holidays. Dr. Andrea Burgos-Murphy is our most recent person to complete all 66 miles of HikeCRNRA. Andrea photographed each park unit, discovered new favorite locations, and celebrated her last hike with her daughter.

    For more information and to sign up for the HikeCRNRA program click here 

    Photo of Andrea Burgos-Murphy at Allenbrook

    Book of the Month:

    Wild Spectacle by Janisse Ray

    This month’s book, Wild Spectacle by Janisse Ray, is a series of diverse essays about the splendor of the natural world. These 17 essays highlight natural areas from Alaska to Central America with subjects from wilderness explorations to declining biodiversity and habitat. One of Ray’s concerns is the overuse of national parks and other wilderness areas. She wonders about the carrying capacity of our natural lands - how many people can visit a wilderness area without damaging it - and what steps we can take to balance access and preservation. To read Wild Spectacle click here 

    Upcoming Events:

    Trail Day

    November 20

    8:45 AM - 12 PM


    Owl Prowl

    November 20

    6 PM - 7:30 PM 


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    P.O. Box 769332, Roswell, GA 30076
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