Lay of the Land – get the 411 on the Moss Rock Preserve

With the 7th annual Moss Rock Festival (MRF) fast approaching on November 3 & 4, The Preserve in Hoover will soon be filled with regional artists, live music, local food, kids art studios, and fun outdoor activities. But before you explore this one of a kind eco-creative festival, get to know the natural preserve just outside of the developed world that is right next door to The Preserve neighborhood and festival site. Moss Rock Preserve (MRP), while located in the middle of Hoover, offers a natural haven for some of the South’s rarest and most interesting wildlife.

Located in a highland valley between Shades Mountain and Pine Mountain, Moss Rock Preserve’s 350 acres envelope 10 miles of looping trails that take hikers to boulders, waterfalls, sandstone glades, an old moonshine still, and the Hurricane Branch creek. The surrounding forests are mixed hardwoods with 66 different species of trees including the Rare Mountain Longleaf Pine and the Georgia Pine, which is listed as imperiled in Alabama and found only in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. These woods make an excellent home for 106 kinds of birds that make Moss Rock Preserve great for bird watchers.

The origins of the Moss Rock Preserve can be dated back 300 million years when some of its oldest sandstone rocks began to form. Humans first made use of the land when Native Americans hunting in the area utilized the boulderfields as natural shelters that can still be seen today. The boulders were rediscovered in the 1960s when bouldering became a popular way for rock climbers to practice and novices to learn the ropes. Rumored to have been discovered by the father of bouldering John Gill, the Preserve became a destination for rock climbers to hone their skills on massive sandstone boulders, some of which are over two stories high. In 2001 when Hoover’s growth threatened the Preserve, it was the Southeastern Climbers Coalition that saved the area by paying the lease and convincing Hoover to establish the Moss Rock Preserve.

Moss Rock also boasts one of the most unique ecosystems in the world with only 35 remaining examples. The Little River Sandstone Glades are a delicate system that, while seeming to be a wasteland, nourish sun seeking plants that can survive on the thin, gritty soil scattered throughout shelves of sandstone. Most of the glades’ plant life consists of lichens, wild flowers (which include the rare Nuttal’s Rayless Goldenrod), and the Prickly Pear cactus which flourishes in the hot, dry conditions there. The few trees that are able to grow are stunted by the infrequent rainfall and are actually naturally occurring bonsai trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Moss Rock Festival will be utilizing this natural gem all weekend for fun activities that will immerse visitors in the great outdoors. Join the Friends of Moss Rock Preserve for one of the interpretive, guided hikes and view the geology and plant life of this unique area. A map of the Moss Rock Preserve trails with descriptions can be viewed here. Fun prizes are waiting to be found by those participating in the Alabama Geocachers Association geocache hunt, which uses GPS technology to find “caches” all over the world hidden by everyday people. Hikes will leave at 11am and 1pm Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4. Geocache workshops and hunts take place at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm each day at the Alabama Geocachers booth (Site TBA).

– Written by Sarah Hendley

1 Comment

  1. H. B. Clark
    October 3, 2012

    Great article. I did not know that the park contained so much or was so extensive. This really is a local treasure and I look forward to many pleasurable hours of exploration with my family. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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