The soils are mostly well-drained, with medium brown or dark reddish brown sandy loam topsoils. The subsoils are clay loam or clay; they are medium red or dark red. The darker soils, which support higher plant diversity, have developed on mafic rock; the medium-toned soils are on felsic rock.
Fernbank Forest was purchased from Col. Z. D. Harrison in 1939 by a group of citizens who organized Fernbank, Inc for the conservation and preservation of this old-growth forest to inspire and teach about nature. In 1964 the Fernbank Trustees developed a 48-year lease which was accepted by the DeKalb County Board of Education, agreeing to manage and maintain the forest in exchange for offering free access to the public. The lease was renewable in eight-year intervals for a maximum of 48 years.
In 2012, the management of Fernbank Forest returned to its owner, Fernbank, Inc., which is also known as the not-for-profit Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History are developing of a Forest Stewardship and Master Plan for all 121 acres of the Museum's property, including Fernbank Forest. However, no public access to the forest has occurred since early 2012.