Grand Bay is located within a 13,000-acre wetlands system which is said to be the second largest natural blackwater wetland in the state, after the Okefenokee Swamp. It is of the type of land features known as “Carolina bays” which, according to one theory were created by meteor showers. Dudley’s Hammock, a rare example of a mature broadleaf-evergreen hammock community, is found in the area. Strolling leisurely along the boardwalk which provides easy access to the wetland, one of the most beautiful plants likely to be encountered in late spring and summer is the Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), as pictured below.
At the end of the half-mile boardwalk is the 54-foot Kinderlou Tower, which served as a fire lookout in nearby Kinderlou Forest from 1939-1993. It was donated to the state by Harley Langdale, Jr., a prominent Valdosta businessman. Be advised in summer that the walk up the tower can be exhausting and that numerous red wasps nest on the structure. The view from the top, though, is worth the effort.
To reach Grand Bay WMA from Valdosta take U. S. Highway 221 North approximately 10 miles and turn left on Knight’s Academy Road. Go 1.5 miles to the entrance sign on the right. The entrance road leads 1 mile north to a “T”. The boardwalk is to your left, the interpretive center and canoe trail entrance to your right. A Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass, or GORP, is now required for access; for more information, call the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division at 229-426-5267.
An aside: My good friend Jan Stokes, who had a long career with DNR at Bowens Mill, pointed out to me in an email just how difficult a task it was to build the boardwalk in 100-degree and freezing weather over several years, battling snakes and alligators at every turn. Their dedication to the project mirrored the enthusiasm of Tip Hon, who was the guiding force behind the state’s vision for Grand Bay WMA.