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Treasured cove added to northwest Georgia conservation lands

McLemore Cove is many things. Beautiful valley. Biological treasure. Historic site. But one thing McLemore has not been is public property. At least not until October, when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources joined with leaders from the Georgia Land Conservation Program, Walker County, the Open Space Institute Inc. and others to announce the acquisition of 1,839 acres of the cove where Pigeon and Lookout mountains meet.

The $10.5 million acquisition connects with state Transportation Department property to cross the head of the northwest Georgia cove and provide a wildlife and recreation corridor between state-owned Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Zahnd Natural Area. That's nearly 20,000 contiguous acres in all for conservation.

The DNR and Georgia Land Conservation Program bought 1,544 acres of the McClemore tract. Walker County added 295. The plan is to manage all of the acreage, including the large DOT holdings set aside for mitigation, as one unit.

Formerly part of Mountain Cove Farms, owned by the Yancey family, the property lies within one of the top six acquisition areas targeted by Georgias Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint for conservation. The tracts provide habitat for rare species such as the green salamander, barksdale trillium and Georgian cave beetle.

The biological diversity is a result of the sites topography and location at the Pigeon/Lookout Mountain junction and the transition between the Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley physiographic provinces. The flat, sandstone plateau top allows water to seep through cracks and crevices, dissolving the underlying limestone layers, creating miles of underground passages or caves and flowing out at numerous springs around the base of the mountain.

The McLemore Cove tract is within the ecologically important West Chickamauga Creek watershed and contains a variety of habitats, including hardwood and pine dominated forests, sandstone outcrops, caves, springs and open pastureland.

The property also sits within the heart of the Mountain Cove Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for periods of significance dating from 1825 to 1949. The cove served as a temporary encampment for 15,000 Union troops during the Civil War.

Geological history dates the areas historical significance much farther back. Evidence of ocean life can be found on top of the mountains. Artifacts reveal the areas American Indian culture.

The acquisition included nearly $6.5 million from the Georgia Land Conservation Program, $2.15 million from Walker County, $750,000 from a grant from the Open Space Institute, Inc., nearly $270,000 from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, $100,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and more than $730,000 in state funds.






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