Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge protects the largest remaining stand of Longleaf Pines north of the state’s coastal plain. The land formerly belonged to Anniston’s Fort McClellan, which was closed by the U.S. Army in 1999. Established as the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in 2003, the ecological importance of the refuge is clearly related to its geographical location on a southern outlier of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Southern Appalachian region is believed to support the most biologically rich temperate forest in the world. This narrow southerly extension of the Blue Ridge is sandwiched between the Ridge and Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east.
While the juncture of three physiographic provinces can be expected to provide varied avenues for complex plant and animal associations, a second and somewhat poorly understood environmental condition also exists. Longleaf Pine, a forest community of the Coastal Plain, extends through the Piedmont, and deeply into the mountains of the Blue Ridge. The diversity of herbaceous plants in the ground cover makes Longleaf Pine forests among the most species-rich plant communities outside the Tropics. This forest community introduces decidedly southern species deep into the Appalachian Region.
The 9,000 acre refuge is a fine place to view Brown-headed Nuthatches and Bachman’s Sparrows in the pine woods – listen for the sparrows’ plaintive “here-kitty-kitty-kitty” call from late March through mid June. Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbirds, and Scarlet Tanagers are all found at the higher elevations from spring to fall. You’ll also see Blue-headed Vireos and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Summer Tanagers, Hooded Warblers and Worm-eating Warblers are found throughout the refuge.
If you follow Bains Gap Road to the crest of the ridge, Military Road crosses it and runs north and south along the ridge. It is a twisting, one-lane gravel road that provides terrific views of the valley below, particularly in winter when the hardwoods are bare.
Follow Bains Gap Road to the lower elevations and hardwoods predominate in the bottomlands. There is a creek on the north side of the road, with significant early second-growth acreage.
Look for Louisiana Waterthrushes, Yellow-throated Vireos, Red-shouldered Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks, and Acadian Flycatchers near the creek from spring to fall. The second-growth areas are excellent for finding Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Indigo Buntings.
The refuge has over 18 miles of trails ranging in levels of difficulty. The most visited trail is the North Ridge Road Trail, located just up the road from the Moorman Overlook. The Smoky Mountain trail also provides a beautiful walk to a mountain creek.
Before coming to the refuge, please remember that the only restrooms are located at the office on Baby Bains Gap Road. Be sure to bring maps, sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water.
GPS: 33.7184 -85.70920
Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
PO Box 5087
Fort McClellan, Alabama 36205
From I-20, Take exit 185 (Anniston/Oxford — abundant gas, food, and lodging options available) and travel north on Highway 21 for 12 miles, through Oxford and Anniston. Just beyond the Anniston Museum of Natural History, turn right on Summerall Gate Road and follow it for approximately 2 miles. Bear right at the "T" intersection onto Berman Road and then in .5 mile take another right onto Bains Gap Road. Head through the gates and into the refuge.
If driving from the Georgia line along I-20, take Exit 199 (Heflin), and travel 12 miles north on Highway 9 to the Joseph Springs Motorway. Turn left on the motorway at the "T" intersection with Choccolocco Road. Take the first right and then left onto Bains Gap Road to enter the refuge.
The Anniston Museum occupies landscaped grounds surrounded by a mature pine-oak hilltop forest. The woodland component coupled with the elevation makes the site well-suited for a role as a spring and fall migrant trap. Woodland songbirds and woodpeck …