Have Compass, Will Hike: McGraw Ford Wildlife Management Area

Wildlife Management Areas are a great place to go once you’ve found your compass at the bottom of the moving box. But not before because WMA’s in general are not exactly trail rich unless you’re after game trails…and that is a wonderful way to get dead with a herbivore in tow! McGraw Ford WMA is a nice place to go for a little off trail stroll or Etowah River swim during the off season for hunters.

Is it goat approved? Dunno. I would suggest, given the deer-esque nature of goats that deer season might not be a great time to visit. The “real” parking locations for the WMA also say entrance is by fee only. By which they mean if you need to have a hunting or fishing license. My experience in prior WMAs is what they really mean is “don’t come out here and hunt or fish if you don’t have a license” not “walkers not welcome”.

WMA3
The pull off of Hwy 372 as seen from the woods.

How you get there: Google “McGraw Ford WMA”. It’s off Hwy 372 near Ball Ground, GA. The best parking is to stop on one of the white cement pull offs on 372 just before the bridge over the Etowah River instead of going to one of the two parking areas for the WMA. DON’T PARK ON THE OLD BRIDGE. Seriously, that thing is in baaaaad shape.

WMA7
The underside of the old bridge – which is held together by old plywood

Time for hike: However much you want to spend bushwacking through undergrowth.

Best season to do this hike: Late summer to avoid turkey/deer/dove seasons.

Trails to Take

Obviously there are no trails here…there are just thousands of acres of forest and underbrush. Take a machete and pretend you’re in the jungle.

WMA.png

BE WARNED

  1. Be prepared to be lost. There are no trails. A compass and a reasonable map of the WMA would be advised if you want to wander for a ways. Though it is only like 2000 acres, so you can walk your way out if you stick with one direction eventually.
  2. Watch out for snakes. I saw a decent sized slithering monstrosity in the grass on the banks of the Etowah.
  3. Watch out for hornets/yellow jackets/giant spiders. You know, the usual buggy horribleness that made my northern husband freak out when he first moved down here.
  4. Oh, and more “watch out” – for big holes in the muddy river that swallow unsuspecting goats…

 

In sum: Machetes are much faster for clearing brush on short notice than goats. However, always make sure the head of your machete is well attached…or a really good swing may result in a ballistic launch of unpredictable sharp blade-ness into the shrubbery.

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