Zahnd blends bizarre, wonderful
By Matt Elliott
The Zahnd Natural Area in Walker County covers some 1,380 acres of the Cumberland Plateau physiographic region. Zahnd sits on the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain and across McLemore Cove from Pigeon Mountain.
The Zahnd family donated the original 163 acres to the state in 1940. Another 1,208 acres were bought in 2003 from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia using money from the state's Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund and the State Wildlife Grants Program.
The original tract contains a number of spectacular sandstone rock formations similar to those found in the better-known Rock Town at Pigeon Mountain. The newer tract has large sandstone bluffs on the brow of Lookout Mountain, several waterfalls (except during dry periods) and three caves.
Zahnd is dominated by the oak-hickory forests typical of the Cumberland Plateau, but it also has drier pine stands and more moist hardwoods. Rare species known from Zahnd include the Ozark bunchflower and green salamander, both state-listed as rare; the mountain witch-alder, which is state-listed as threatened; and granite gooseberry.
Popular activities at the natural area include hiking, hunting, rock climbing, bird watching and nature study. Camping, horseback riding and use of ATVs or mountain bikes is not permitted.
Although there are no designated hiking trails, there is a path leading into the woods at the Ga. 157 kiosk that winds around through the sometimes-bizarre sandstone formations. Side trails lead through narrow crevices, under overhangs and into cave-lake openings that resemble small rooms.
To access the newer part of Zahnd, follow the old road leading away from the lower kiosk. It goes across Cedar Grove Creek and into a moist, cove-like hardwood stand with a lush herbaceous layer. Other old logging roads intersect with this one, affording numerous opportunities for extended exploration.
In late June, the state Board of Natural Resources approved plans for an $8.3 million acquisition of 1,564 acres at Crockford-Pigeon Wildlife Management Area near Lookout Mountain. The property will connect Zahnd and the WMA.
Getting to Zahnds kiosks
** Upper kiosk: On Ga. 157 4.4 miles north of Dougherty Gap Road. The pull-off is on the east or northbound side of highway.
** Lower kiosk: Take Cove Road north from Dougherty Gap Road, or south from Ga. 193. Turn onto South Cedar Lane either six miles south of Ga. 193 or 3.5 miles north of Dougherty Gap Road. South Cedar Lane will wind around to the left, pass over Cedar Grove Creek, and dead-end at the parking area inside the natural area.