Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary: A Visit to Fayette County’s Hidden Wetlands

South of Fayetteville, on Old Senoia Road, lies 56 acres of quiet, but vibrant landscape known as Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary.

The Audubon Certified Bird Sanctuary was once a drained lake bed that is slowly reverting to a meadow. The land was donated to the Southern Conservation Trust by the Ferrol and Helen Sams family and restored as a wetland habitat by the city of Atlanta, as required after the building of the fifth runway at the Atlanta airport.

Sams Lake is home to many native species of birds, reptiles and mammals, and in fact, much of the lake there was created by beaver dams. Be on the lookout at dawn and dusk (the most frequent wildlife feeding times) for great blue herons, mallards, egrets, kingfishers and Canada geese, as well as a number of songbirds. You may also spot, among the reeds, frogs and turtles, and maybe even a deer, muskrat, or one of the dam-building beavers!

Download a free plant identification app to your smartphone before you go so you can make note of the various native plants like the swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) or cat-o’-nine-tails (Typha latifolia)

The privately-owned sanctuary has few structures interrupting the landscape aside from an observation platform, a picnic area, and the recently installed chimney swift tower built with the Atlanta Audubon Society. But you will also make good use of the Eagle Scout project bridges throughout the short hikes to the northern or southern end of the sanctuary.

Note: Pets are not allowed at Sams Lake, so you’ll have to choose another trail for a walk with your best friend. And, as always in nature, leave no trace!