Briarwood Nature Preserve: A Forest Gem Just 33 Miles Away!

A forest gem by the name of Briarwood lies just north of Readhimer, a short 33-mile drive from downtown Winnfield. Curator Bayli Quick told Rotarians on May 24 when she talked about the Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve.

Caroline Dorman was a world-renowned naturalist whose grandparents settled in the area before the Civil War.  The preserve currently encompasses 212 acres of fields and woodlands that have remained protected and untouched for some 200 years.  It boasts a diverse collection of rare and native plants.  This includes the oldest collection of Louisiana irises in the world, which put on an impressive display of colors for a brief period each spring.

Quick explained that that a rose garden was an early plan for Briarwood.  But all of the bushes died so the irises became the preserve’s hallmark.  In the only “manicured” garden on the property are some 150 different iris hybrids.  Most were collected since 1972, some taken from other parts of the preserve from the early 1930s.  The bog garden is fed by a natural spring.  Another preserve resident is the Louisiana Bluestar.  A rare wildflower elsewhere, it shows off in a “sea of blue” in season at Briarwood.

One of the stipulations of serving as curator is living on the preserve, as do Quick, her husband and infant Clovis.  They are assisted by another worker.  She is working to fill the shoes of Briarwood’s venerable predecessor, Richard Johnson and his wife Jessie.  The site has been open to the public as a nature preserve since 1972.

The speaker told Rotarians that nature takes its course when no chemicals are used, and caretakers plus volunteers work hard to remove invasive species.  Trails are maintained from fallen timber and such for hiking and golf carts.  The property is mowed only once annually, just after the first frost.

Quick said the preserve receives several thousand visitors a year and is fortunate to have a host of volunteers to assist.  The Friends of Caroline Dorman program, a 501(c)3 established in 1970, is the main source of funding for Briarwood.

To get to Briarwood from Winnfield, simply drive north of Hwy 167 to Dodson, turn west on Hwy 126 to Readhimer, then north on Hwy 9 for about a half mile.  The preserve is open to the public Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in March through May and again in October and November.  Quick said a phone call (318-576-3379) ahead of time is helpful for planning purposes.  Guided tours are conducted by the curator only.  Off-season tours are available by appointment only.


Rotarian Joe Evens and daughter Sophee stand with Briarwood curator Bayli Quick who holds little Clovis who remained contentedly quiet throughout the Rotary program.