By Becky Samford, Publisher Duluth, Norcross, Suwanee, Johns Creek & Peachtree Corners Macaroni Kid July 25, 2020

Called the "crown jewel" of the Johns Creek parks system, Autrey Mill Nature Preserve is the perfect place for your whole family to enjoy and learn about our local environment. Located on 46 acres of ravine forest and historic past, this nature preserve's two miles of walking trails wind past a scenic creek with rocky shoals, spring seeps, mature trees, wildflowers, native plants, and a variety of animal life. There is plenty to explore with bridges, an outlook, a gold mine, foundation stones of the old mill, plus benches and pavilion. 

This preserve is home to over 28 species of native trees, 58 species of native plants (including the rare Pink Lady Slipper, Cypripedium acaule), and over 110 native wildlife species. Several habitat types are represented. Sal's Creek runs along the western border of Autrey Mill and empties into the Chattahoochee River.

The Heritage Village has been created with four buildings original to the site including The Visitors' Center, deBray Chapel, Farm Museum, and Program Barn. The Summerour House, Warsaw Church, Green Country Store, and Tenant Farmhouse were saved from demolition by Autrey Mill and moved from nearby locations. This village and its related exhibit pieces provide an understanding of this area's proud rural heritage from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s. 

Replica Native American dwellings are nestled in the woods to remind us of those who walked these forests before us. These American Indian dwellings are used to teach about the history and peoples of this land, with special emphasis on how their survival was dependent on respect for and careful use of the environment. 

Tom Blue Wolf and his crew from Earth Keepers have constructed a replica of a Native American hunting lodge from the 1600s. Built of wood logs and a mud cob reinforced by river reed, this type of structure was used by the Creek, Cherokee, and other woodland Indians of the southeast. Although tepees like the replica Plains Indian tepee were not used in this area, it is used for Native American education and to contrast with the mud and cob structures built in this area.

The Forsten Collection of Southeastern Indian Artifacts complements the Indian Dwellings to give visitors further insight into the Native American culture. The collection contains 288 pieces of Southeastern American Indian projectile points, gorgets, atlatl weights and other artifacts. Part of the large collection is on permanent display, with other pieces used for educational programming and future research.

The Visitor Center houses animal exhibits of turtles, frogs, snakes, and insects and dioramas of native mammals and birds. Housed in habitats designed to simulate their natural habitat, visitors can observe natural behaviors and get a close look at species which are often only seen for an instant. There is also a Special Exotic Ectotherm Exhibit featuring reptiles and amphibians from around the world such as pythons, tortoises, lizards and more from Australia, Africa, Asia, and South America.

At the pond outside, there are ducks, rabbits, turtles, chickens, and goats to feed. There is a dispenser of food to feed the animals. I think it is just $.25 for a handful. Occasionally you can also see unexpected visitors!

Open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to dusk, families can enjoy all of the trails, see beautiful wildflowers, wade in the stream and feed the animals in and around the pond. On Saturday (10 AM - 4 PM) and Sunday (12 PM- 4 PM) the Visitors Center is also open to the public.

So, pack up the kids, bring a snack, and explore the wilderness in the middle of the City of Johns Creek!!

There is no charge for entrance to the grounds and the Visitor Center. With a Family membership, you get discounts on all programs including Summer Camps along with a newsletter and invitations to members only events.

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve, 9770 Autrey Mill Road, Johns Creek, GA 30022

As always, be safe, follow safety guidelines, and do only what you feel comfortable doing during this uncertain time.

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