A Walk at Radnor Lake State Natural Area
Early on a Monday morning in May, I climbed out of my car and within seconds was walking on a wood-mulched trail lined with tulip poplar, beech, sugar maple, oaks and hickory surrounded by the sounds of songbirds, clumps of spicebush and elderberry and patches of wildflowers rewarding me at each turn.
Ten minutes later, I came upon a Canada goose silently snuggled down on her nest along the shoreline of a beautiful shimmering lake dotted with ducks, geese, grebes, herons and teals and ringed by low hills covered with mountain laurel, blueberry, hickory, sourwood and oak.
It was hard to imagine the busy streets of downtown Nashville only eight miles north of where I stood. And that’s much of the appeal of Radnor Lake State Natural Area – drive by access from 6 A.M. to sunset for quality quiet time in the woods that seems light years away from the daily hustle and bustle.
But once you’re here, slow and easy is the best approach to appreciate this beloved antidote for the stresses of modern living and refuge for hundreds of species of wildflowers, trees and critters that fly, swim, walk or crawl through its 1,200 protected acres.
Built by the L& N (Louisville and Nashville) railroad back in 1914 to provide water for steam engines and cattle at nearby Radnor Rail yard, the 85-acre man-made impoundment of Otter Creek is now the centerpiece of this Class II State Natural Area.
The Class II designation means all activities must support nature observation and research. So know before you go that you won’t find picnic tables, swimming areas, fishing, boating or jogging paths along the well-kept hiking trails.
There’s access for joggers, bicyclists or pets on leashes out for some fresh air on Otter Creek Road, a paved road that links Granny White Pike on the west and Franklin Pike on the east but is closed to vehicles from both directions as it enters Radnor Lake State Natural Area. The paved Dam Walkway along the western end of the lake is an easy stroll as well. Even though paved and more heavily traveled, both are shady with good views of the pristine lake and lined with wildflowers and songbirds.
The Visitor Center at the western entrance has information about the area’s history, flora and fauna. Otter Creek is accessible to persons with a disability and all-terrain wheelchairs available at the Visitors’ Center increase access to the trails.
Trails on the north side of Otter Creek Road include the easy breezy Spillway Trail (.25 miles) and Lake Trail (1.4 miles) as well as the moderately difficult Access Trail (0.5 miles) leads that to the more strenuous Ganier Ridge Trail (1.5 miles) named for the founder of the Tennessee Ornithological Society who was a mover and shaker in the preservation efforts at Radnor Lake during the early 1920s.
On the south side are the moderately strenuous South Lake Trail (0.9 miles) and strenuous South Cover Trail (1.2 miles).
Restrooms and free parking are available at both the eastern and western entrances. Parking is in high demand during peak times on the busiest days so take a note from nature – the early bird gets the worm, the parking spot and the enhanced sense of solitude from less congestion on the trails.