Don’t Miss These Summer Hikes at Tennessee’s State Natural Areas
Tennessee’s 82 State Natural Areas (SNAs) preserve prime examples of the Volunteer State’s ecologically significant natural landscapes and provide long term protection for rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal life. SNAs include remnants of old growth forest and bald cypress swamps in West Tennessee’s Mississippi River valley to the rich woodlands on the Cumberland Plateau and Southern Appalachian Mountain coves in East Tennessee.
The largest concentration of SNAs are found stretching from mid state’s Western Highland Rim, Central Basin, Eastern Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau.
Throughout the year the Division of Natural Areas leads guided hikes and tours of chosen SNAs including several that do not have developed public access, like Dry Branch, a 2,169-acre property in Lewis County on the Western Highland Rim purchased by the State of Tennessee in 2007.
If the weather cooperates on Aug. 24, David Lincicome, Natural Heritage Program Manager for Tennessee’s SNAs, will be leading a group 25 hikers along seeps and shallow stream crossings for approximately 2.5 miles out-and-back along Dry Branch Creek.
I’d suggest wearing comfortable waterproof boots, bringing your camera, a sturdy walking stick and some insect repellent along with water and lunch on your quest to see Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (Xyris tennesseensis), which is a federally endangered species and one of the rarest plants in Tennessee. To join the group for this 9 a.m. hike, RSVP to David Lincicome by Aug. 22 at 615-532-0439 or email him at David.Lincicome@tn.gov.
May Prairie Hiking
My wife, Cathy, and I were intrigued to learn of a prairie near Manchester and drove there recently for an un-guided hike to check out May Prairie, one of Tennessee’s 13 National Natural Landmarks. As we passed the neighboring Hickory Flats Wildlife Management Area and saw wetland signs we were grateful for the DEET-containing insect repellent we’d sprayed on like suit of armors.
Once we made the half-mile trek to the edge of the forest and saw a panorama of amazing native grasses and wildflowers, we were absolutely captivated. Cathy had Carman’s Wildflowers of Tennessee in hand, but couldn’t stop exclaiming “ooh look!” long enough to identify all the species we were seeing. This included the snowy orchid, usually seen along the coastal plains but found only in this single spot in Tennessee. Every time we’d start to call it a day we’d marvel at yet another variety of wildflower or native grass and start snapping more pictures. I shot 129 images and I think Cathy clicked an equal number.
To hear the talk and walk the walk at May Prairie join an easy three-hour guided hike scheduled for Aug. 24 at 10 a.m., RSVP at 615-532-0436 or email Brian.Bowen@tn.gov.to secure your spot. You’ll love it!
Before you leave Manchester, consider a visit the 2,000 year-old American Indian ceremonial site and museum at Old Stone Fort State Park. It’s an impressive location where two rivers drop off the plateau of the Eastern Highland Rim into the Central Basin with camping available.
Where’s your favorite spot to hike in Tennessee? Let me know in the comments!