Spring Creek Preserve is a 200-acre water quality and wildlife habitat improvement project built and maintained by Dalton Utilities. The wetlands preserve compensates for streams and wetlands that were altered or destroyed by construction of the Haig Mill Water Reservoir. Wetlands were constructed in abandoned farmland on the southern floodplain, and existing bottomland hardwood swamp and upland forest are protected throughout the rest of the site. The preserve is located along Spring Creek, which originates about one mile upstream at Deep Springs and flows downstream to the Conasauga River. The cost to maintain the preserve, which includes grounds maintenance and repairs, is approximately $10,000 per year.
Spring Creek Wetlands Preserve is open to the public at no charge. The wetlands preserve, located in northwest Whitfield County, is owned and maintained by Dalton Utilities as an environmental education area. Our staff provides guided tours to interested groups on a regular basis. Spring Creek Wetlands Preserve has become a popular location for students and environmentalists.
Spring Creek Wetlands Preserve
The preserve supports a secondary trout stream and is the breeding ground for several endangered fish species. Dalton Utilities owns both the upland forest and the bottomland (or wetlands). Because of this ownership, we are able to further protect the wetlands by completing the food cycle. Many of the wildlife living in the upland forest feed on the life in the wetlands. Furthermore, the Spring Creek Wetlands Preserve was created under a Protective Covenant, which means the property will remain protected forever, regardless of future events or change of ownership.
A trail system runs through the wetlands on both the east and west sides of Spring Creek. Visitors are encouraged to observe the plants and wildlife with convenient trail markers (that look like large rocks). Arrows etched into rocks point walkers in the direction of the trail (T) or the parking area (P), should they become disoriented. Other rocks have numbers etched into them that correspond to information in the Spring Creek Guide to Interpretive Trail Markers.
What is a wetland?
A wetland is an area where water shallowly covers the land or saturates the soil for at least several weeks of the year during the growing season. The plants and animals that live in wetlands are specially adapted to survive in saturated or flooded areas. Wetlands dominated by trees are called swamps. Most of the Spring Creek floodplain is in a swamp dominated by oaks, red maple, and green ash and is partly underwater in late winter or after heavy rains. A wetland dominated by herbaceous plants is called a marsh. The constructed wetlands are now marsh but they will eventually succeed to swamp as the area and its trees mature.
Wetlands such as those found at Spring Creek function as important water storage areas during floods and droughts, act as water purification systems, and serve as valuable breeding grounds and homes for wildlife, especially amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders).
The wetlands preserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including wood ducks; reptiles; turtles; snails, small fish, such as largemouth bass; and invertebrates, such as dragon fly larvae, which live underwater for two years before emerging and growing wings. Shallow water areas are homes for mud turtles and green frogs. Great blue herons and green-backed herons wade through these waters searching for fish, frogs and crayfish to eat. If you sit quietly, you may hear frogs calling, see fish swimming in the channel or see birds and insects flying by. Some of the fish in Spring Creek include catfish, bream, crappie, redeye bass and rainbow trout (stocked by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources). Wetland plants include broad-leaved arrowhead, cattail, and many types of sedges (a grass-like plant). Many tree seedlings have sprouted, including overcup oak, swamp chestnut oak, red maple, and green ash. Eventually the trees will grow up and this area will become a forested swamp.