November 2020

Student Conservation Association Experience

If you have visited Sope Creek recently, you may have seen a four-person crew sawing downed trees and working on the multi-use trail. Lauren, Simon, Kelly, and Jared are all members of the Student Conservation Association, known as SCA. SCA engages young Americans to protect and restore national parks, trails, and other public green spaces in all 50 states. By connecting young people with the outdoors through multi-month hands-on service details in parks and communities across the U.S., SCA seeks to create the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment.

This SCA crew is working on a variety of projects in the CRNRA, but their main assignment is the popular Sope Creek multi-use trail. CNPC and MTB Atlanta, with funding from REI, are restoring the roughly seven-mile multi-use trail which is used heavily by walkers, runners, and mountain bikers. The SCA crew goes in following the heavy machinery work to fill in holes and do finishing details. They have also helped clear multiple trails blocked by trees following Hurricane Zeta.

All four CRNRA team members are SCA leaders, meaning they have participated in other leadership roles with SCA. Led by Lauren, this SCA Leader Team has worked together on prior projects. The work is challenging, but the entire team finds the work rewarding. Each individual has their own reasons to join SCA and hopes to gain different things from the experience, but all participants seek to connect with the outdoor world. To learn more about SCA and its programs, go to

Photo: Evan Barnard 

We Honor our Veterans and Gold Star Families

We honor our Veterans annually on November 11th for their service to America, and now they will have an opportunity to enjoy more of the beautiful country they have fought to protect. Starting this year on Veterans Day, the National Park Service is offering lifetime access to America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public federal lands for all U.S. veterans and Gold Star families. Gold Star families are those who have lost an immediate family member to military service. This program waives standard entry fees to about 2,000 public locations across the United States, many of which have historical connections to the U.S. military.

Veterans, including those who served in the National Guard and Reserve, can claim a free America the Beautiful Pass by presenting a valid Department of Defense Identification Card, Veteran Health Identification Card, Veteran ID card or a Veteran-designated state ID. Active-duty military and their dependent family members are already eligible for a free America the Beautiful Pass. The pass includes any fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle that is permitted entry, or up to four adults at park sites that charge per person.

The National Park Service waives entry fees to all national parks in commemoration of Veterans Day annually, meaning anyone can visit free on November 11th. Annual park passes for non-veterans are available at $80 per year at

Observations of Goldenrod Galls, by Jerry Hightower, NPS Ranger

The bright yellow of the goldenrods is beginning to fade, but the plant harbors an amazing array of life throughout the year. Over a hundred different species of wildlife are associated with the goldenrod plant, ranging from tiny spiders awaiting pollinators in the flowers to Downy Woodpeckers removing larva from galls. Galls are an interesting component of the complex interactions of wildlife and goldenrods. Created in response to the feeding stimulus of various insects or mites, many goldenrods host these intriguing novelties of nature. 

Three types of galls are easily spotted on goldenrod stems: a round ball, an elliptical shape, and one that looks like a bunch of leaves. The round ball gall of the Goldenrod Fly (Eurosta solidaginis) is formed after an egg laid in the stem hatches and the larva begins to feed. The stem thickens and adds layers of hardened cells, forming a ball shaped gall on the stem. The gall serves as protection and a cafeteria for the larva as it develops, pupates, and then emerges as an adult. Downy Woodpeckers and Chickadees will feed on the larva, leaving enlarged exit holes in the gall. 

The Goldenrod Gall Moth (Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis) lays its eggs on a dead leaf or beneath the plant. Upon hatching, the larva burrows into the stem, which stimulates the plant to form an elliptical gall. The larva pupates during the summer and emerges in the early spring to mate and lay eggs. 

A mass of leaves bunched together at the top of the stem indicates the presence of the larva of the Goldenrod Midge (Rhopalomyia[or Cecidomyia] solidaginis). This very tiny creature lays her eggs in the (usually) upper most leaf bud. The actions of the larva cause the stem to stop growing, but not the leaves. The midge lays either all male or all female eggs. These curious masses of leaves are also host to other midge larva, spiders, and a diversity of other invertebrates. 

Although the bright flowers have faded, goldenrods deserve our attention year-round. As you walk in the various park units with populations of goldenrods, look for the galls and see if you can find all three.

Breaking Ground on Cauley Creek Park

On Thursday, October 15th, Johns Creek city officials held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the first segment of the Cauley Creek Park trail as officially under construction.

Cauley Creek Park is 192 acres located in the eastern half of the city adjacent to the Rogers Bridge Trail and the proposed Rogers Bridge connection over the Chattahoochee River to Duluth. The Cauley Creek Park trail will connect to the CRNRA’s Abbott’s Bridge Unit. Plans for the park include more than three miles of multi-use trails, two steel pedestrian bridges, three wildlife observation decks, and a river overlook deck.

Johns Creek’s Mayor Mike Bodker and city council members joined members of the city's Recreation & Parks Advisory Committee and representatives of the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy and Trust for Public Land to mark the official start of construction on the 3.1-mile trail. Construction will be complete in the spring of 2021, according to city officials, followed by construction on the rest of the park.

Wonderful Woolly Caterpillars

Hiking the trails in the CRNRA in the fall, fuzzy caterpillars abound. One species often seen is the Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Halysidota tessellaris). This distinguished looking woolly caterpillar is known for its prickly, hairy body, which ranges in color from white to yellow to orange to brownish grey. A black line the length of its spine, plus three sets of long black and white lashes, accentuates its pipecleaner-textured body. Its bristles and color serve as a warning to predators to leave it alone. Hiker be warned - some who handle this caterpillar experience discomfort upon contact with its bristles. Woolly caterpillars do not sting or have venom, but the bristles of some species can cause a stinging sensation when touched.

The Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar is found in deciduous forests along the Eastern parts of Canada, America, and Mexico. A varied eater, this caterpillar enjoys feasting on the leaves of walnut, chestnut, oak, birch, elm, tulip, and many other types of trees. Turn over one of these leaves in springtime and you just might find a bristly grey egg-shaped cocoon residing underneath a leaf.

The Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar transforms into a Moth adult after about two weeks in its cocoon, generally in April each year. Like many other butterflies and moths, the adult version of the Banded Tussock Moth looks quite different from its former caterpillar self. Light yellowish wings with brown banding extend from an orange, fuzzy body while its thorax, or shoulder area, boasts fantastic turquoise, yellow, or white stripes.

Keep an eye out for this fuzzy species. And remember, look but do not touch those woolly caterpillars.

 Photo: Evan Barnard 

Updates and Opportunities

Sope Creek Love Project Progress
The Sope Creek Love project to restore the multi-use trail is making great progress! The trail work is mostly complete, and the sign work should be completed by the end of December. The SCA crew wraps up on Friday, but work by CNPC, CRNRA, and MTB Atlanta will continue into December.

The Beauty of Gold Branch
Check out a new trail this month! The CRNRA’s Gold Branch offers an enchanting forest walk that immerses you in a quiet landscape – you will marvel that this experience and beautiful park exist in an urban area. Please remember all dogs must be on leash in the CRNRA and to pick up and properly dispose of any pet waste.

Holiday Gifts
Looking for a great gift for your national park lover? Are you looking to add some more stamps to your NPS passport? Consider this best-selling book by Conor Knighton: “Leave Only Your Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park.” Another meaningful idea -  consider a gift of membership to CNPC at

Owl Identification
Open your door in the evening and listen carefully – you may hear owls calling to each other. If you hear “who-cooks-for-you,” you are listening to a barred owl. “Who-who-who” means a great horned owl is in your midst. Check out this excellent website from Audubon with calls and information on different species of owls:

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CNPC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We are proud to support our Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a unit of the national park system managed by the National Park Service.

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Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy
P.O. Box 769332, Roswell, GA 30076
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