Hiking at Harris Shoals Park

Harris Shoals Park, Watkinsville, Georgia

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on February 8, 2012.

Now that the boys are getting a little older, we’re ready to hit the trails.  My husband initiated a hiking ritual for our family, and at Christmas, he and I got some new boots to make it official. This has been a great winter to start hiking as a family because of the mild weather we’re having.

We love going to Ft. Yargo, but one of our goals is to explore as many parks and other wildlife areas that’s not too far away.  Since the boys are still young, we have to ease them into hiking.  Maybe by next year, they’ll be ready for some mountain trails!

Last week we went to Harris Shoals Park in Watkinsville.  The entrance of the park is at Harris Shoals Drive, which is located on Highway 53 between Interstate 441 and VFW Drive.  The small park provides a valuable green space between the interstate and the town of Watkinsville.

There’s a large playground for kids with one of the biggest and best slides around, and the park offers some shelters and BBQ pits for parties.  There’s also a baseball field.  We headed over to the shoals, however, because my boys love the water.

The water that flows over the shoals is Calls Creek and eventually it meets up with the Middle Oconee River.  The shoals are flat rocks that have been there for thousands of years and have been eroded slowly over time.  It’s a picturesque and peaceful place despite the fact that you can hear some of the traffic on the surrounding roads.

It’s easy to walk out onto the rocks and splash in the water or in the case of my boys, throw rocks into the water.  My two-year-old is like a robot when he sees water. He throws rocks and little twigs in the river without even looking up to see their splash!  We literally have to drag him away when it’s time to go.

The flow of the water over the shoals was slowed somewhat when a dam was built upstream for the old Watkinsville Water Treatment Plant.  Take a short walk up the Harris Shoals Nature Trail, and you’ll be able to see the dam.

According to a leaflet that was provided by Christopher Adams for an Eagle Scouts Project this past fall, “The marsh area behind the dam used to be a more prominent creek until dammed up and was used to hold and treat water which was then pumped up to the city….After the water plant was abandoned, the dam area overgrew to the current marsh like condition of today.”

The area is a haven for wildlife.  Up the trail a bit, we found a beaver dam, and I’m not sure if the beavers still live there, but we also found evidence of their presence at a big tree stump which looked as if it had been chewed considerably by the large teeth of a beaver.

As we were walking, we also saw many birds, including a beautiful heron, which took flight at the sound of my children’s chattering and footsteps.  A marsh area like this would also be home for many fish, reptiles and amphibians.  We did see some little fish in the water at a place we stopped to rest while the boys threw more rocks and twigs into the water.

My favorite part of the park is the long bridge that crosses through the marsh.  I don’t think I’d want to cross that bridge in the middle of August, but right now it gives an interesting view to marshland.  I bet if you sat on that bridge alone in the early morning, you could watch some wild animals too.

Next time you feel like getting out into nature, drive over to Harris Shoals Park.  Bring a picnic and sit down next to the shoals, and don’t forget to pick up a few rocks to throw in the water too.

Where are your favorite places to go hiking?

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