Visit Atlanta’s Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve

After months of cleaning and preparatory work, the Lake Charlotte Nature Reserve in southeast Atlanta is open to the public.

Why is this important: The 216-acre rustic forest home to shagbark hickories, white oaks and several towering beeches is a key element of a global vision to create a massive forest park along the South River.

  • Centered on the now-drained Lake Charlotte, the preserve is one of Atlanta’s finest largest mature forests and a wildlife house which is quite beautiful and special.

Big Picture: Located near I-285 and Moreland Avenue, the reserve abuts the South River Gardens neighborhood and feels secluded from nearby trucking companies and industrial uses (not to mention the capped landfill next door). .

  • This proximity to industry is part of the the story from regionitself a part of the larger story of post-WWII Atlanta about suburbanization, environmental racism, equity efforts, and how development affects neighborhoods to this day.

Mini-visit: About a quarter of a mile after entering the main gate entrance on Forest Park Road and through the woods you will notice small stone walls. The walls (plus some foundations and a single stone fireplace) are remnants of the old pavilions that stood on the property from the 1920s.

  • Like his sister preserves all along the citythe forest character of Lake Charlotte is intended and unlikely to change much from the current natural trail.
  • The thick tree canopy, tree stumps, and drained lake bed help maintain the forest ecosystem of deer, frogs, butterflies, and other wildlife.

Getting There : Street parking is permitted along Forrest Park Road. the Line 55 MARTA bus stops about half a mile south of the signage and main entrance to the preserve.

Anecdote: The purchase of wood was the first paid for using funds collected by the city from developers and landowners who cut down trees.

The city originally purchased the property in the early 1980s, but sold it about six years later to a developer with larger plans for an industrial park, according to a deeply researched story by Atlanta writer Hannah Palmer.

  • Plans fell through and Waste Management bought the property, leading neighbors to think the forest would become another dump, WABE’s Molly Samuels reported.

In August 2020, the city bought property of the Conservation Fund, a non-profit organization that helps local governments protect land.

  • Prior to the acquisition, the Lake Charlotte property “was in imminent danger of destruction for development,” Tim Keane, the city’s planning commissioner, told Axios.

Thomas thought bubble: If you like secluded nature spots close to town, grab some friends and see a mature, gentle forest that forms the basis of a bold vision of the park.

Signage and main entrance to the reserve along Forrest Park Road. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
Ferns dot the floor of a wooded forest
Ferns dot the property but fill the forest floor near the entrance to the reserve. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
Lake Charlotte, now drained, which can become a marsh after heavy rains
Lake Charlotte now drained. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
A photo of a short set of steps leading up to what was once a lodge or house
Crews are working to remove invasive plants like English ivy. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
A lone stone fireplace stands in a cleared section of the woods
An insulated chimney and foundations are the only reminder of the houses that once dotted the property. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
Three old bottles stand on a short stone or decorative retaining wall
Stone walls line parts of the wide nature trail. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios
A photo of a relatively dense forest in the fall
The forest includes black cherry trees and several towering beech trees. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

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