Events scheduled during Tennessee Natural Areas Spring Celebration include a guided hike to the 800-acre Cheeks Bend Natural Area near Columbia. Photo Cathy Summerlin

9 Days + More Than 30 Ways to Celebrate Spring in Tennessee Natural Areas

Tennessee’s Natural Areas ( are hosting events across the Volunteer State during their spring celebration April 5-13, 2014 this year.

Our 83 State Natural Areas (SNA) vary in size and location but all protect prime examples of Tennessee’s natural ecosystems as well as our rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal life. Some sites have ready access and well-marked trails others have limited access or no trails. Most are on public lands but there are also privately owned sites with access permitted by request and permission of the owner.

Stillhouse Hollow Tennessee

There are many ways to enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds of State Natural Areas like Stillhouse Hollow Falls during Tennessee Natural Areas Spring Celebration. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

We decided to get a jump on celebrating and took a walk last week at Cheeks Bend SNA, one of six natural areas that form the 2,135–acre Duck River Complex SNA within the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s 12,800-acre Yanahli Wildlife Management Area outside Columbia.

In addition to spraying ourselves liberally with insect repellent (yes folks, ticks really are out there already), packing walking sticks and water, we took along binoculars and a compass plus wildflower and bird guides.

We didn’t take our canoe this trip but noticed Higher Pursuits Canoe and Kayak Rentals as we turned on Cheeks Bend Road. They will open for the season the first weekend in May unless we get a lot of warm days in the meantime. Kayaks and canoes are available for floats on two sections of the river or you can bring your own equipment and arrange shuttle service.

It was peaceful and quiet, a great day for a walk through the cedar glades to high bluffs overlooking the Duck. We discovered interesting foliage that held the promise of patches of blooms in a matter of days and intriguing rock formations as we made our way along the blue-blazed trail.

The weather forecast had called for rain, but the sun was shining as we followed a rocky trail that looked like equal parts trail and dry stream bed. We saw astounding numbers of deer prints in the moist soil of several sizable clearings.

The bad news is since we weren’t walking with a naturalist familiar with the flora, fauna and geology of the area, our questions about many of the plants and rock formations remain unanswered.

But you can get yours answered on a two-mile nature walk at Cheeks Bend on Sunday, April 6, during this year’s Tennessee Natural Areas Spring Celebration.

If you’re really fired up there are hikes scheduled every day from April 5 through April 13 and Deep Swamp Canoe Float trips continue at Reelfoot Lake during April weekends.

There’s more than one trip to some sites so check out the Natural Areas website for a full list, details and pre-registration but here’s a sampling of the scheduled events:

April 5: See wildflower displays and hike along Richland Creek to Laurel Falls in the Laurel- Snow SNA near Dayton (East).

Cul-car-mac Falls

On April 5, join Division of Natural Areas Zoologist David Withers and TDEC Water Resources Biologist Brandon Chance for a hike from Evins Mill to the 90-foot Cul-Car-Mac Falls, a privately owned Registered SNA. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

April 6: Join a 3-mile roundtrip hike to the rugged gorge and Stinging Fork Falls near Spring City (East).

April 7: An afternoon hike explores the woods, wildflowers and wildlife near Dunbar Cave outside Clarksville (Middle).

April 8: Visit Taylor Hollow SNA, a site in Sumner County renowned for its spring wildflowers and the first property acquired by the Tennessee Chapter of the Nature Conservancy (Middle).

April 9: Bring your binoculars and join Dunbar Cave State Natural Area staff on a birding hike around Short Loop Trail (Middle).

April 10: Enjoy wildflowers and the waterfall at Stillhouse Falls SNA near Summertown (Middle).

April 11: four-mile roundtrip hike includes a visit to Savage Falls in the 15,590-acre Savage Gulf SNA one of several hikes planned in 24,550 ruggedly beautiful acres that form South Cumberland State Park (East).

April 12: You won’t need to be a butterfly expert to become a citizen scientist collecting data during the Clifton Bend Butterfly Count at Carroll Cabin Barrens SNA south of Parsons (West).

April 13: Indulge your love of history and enjoy spring wildflowers and native plants during a hike to the entrance of Big Bone Cave, which gets its name from the bones of a giant ground sloth discovered here in 1811 (Middle).

Beaman Park Nashville

On April 12, early spring flora and basic tree identification will be topics of discussion during a hike at Beaman Park SNA near Nashville. (Photo: Beaman Park)

I hope you’ll enjoy this year’s celebration of Tennessee’s spectacular State Natural Areas.

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on




    Hi Vernon,
    I’m thinking of relocating to NE Tennessee. Can you suggest an area with great hiking, free concerts, etc. I love the mountains, but want to stay away from the touristy areas. I will be visiting soon, but am short on time; so any advice you can offer would be much appreciated. Elizabethton area? Jonesboro is out of the mountains, but close enough for views? Any advice? With thanks, ella

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