The sound of river traffic made by the churning barges fills the otherwise quiet space between the sunflower rows. Then, the softness of the wind and the flight and call of some small bird. It feels strange to know that if there were no trees lining the river, you'd be able to see downtown on the other side. Down here in the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, you hardly fell like you're within the city limits of Knoxville. Knoxville Urban Wilderness is a series of nature preserves, wildlife management areas, city parks and nature centers linked by a 42-mile greenway that transport you to a natural escape. Here are three areas you'll want to check out within the Wilderness.
Baker Creek Preserve is Knoxville's newest addition to the Urban Wilderness system. One hundred acres of hills, valleys and meadows make up 7.3 miles of natural surface trails, ideal for beginners to expert mountain bikers. A play area with a kids-only loop, small pump track and adventure play structures are at the entrance. Three downhill mountain bike trails are one-way and ideal for experienced bikers only. Hikers and trail runners will find five multi-use trails with varying levels of difficulty. But for those taking a leisurely hike - or ride - the mixed-use Red Bud Crest Trail is a pleasant route that will lead you from the Baker Creek Preserve, over the brand new Red Bud Bridge and into Marie Myers Park, where you "T" into the 42-mile greenway.
Take the greenway north toward the river and cross into the world-class Ijams Nature Center by way of the Ross Marble Quarry. At Ijams, you have an incredible array of outdoors options, including rock climbing, paddling, hiking, biking and the Navitat canopy zip line adventure park. The center also hosts educational programming through nature camps, public programs and even a nature school for preschool-aged children. Special events are hosted ranging from concerts under a night sky, volunteer cleanup projects and more.
From Ijams, the trail crosses into the massive Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, renowned for its sunflower fields. You could easily spend half a day strolling these grounds along the field roads and riverside greenway. It's a picturesque place to spend time in with family and friends. After you've soaked up the views of the endless sunflower fields you can cross through private land granted to the city via Lost Chromosome Trail. You'll make your way into the Hastie Natural Area, which links to Marie Myers Park and completes the loop trail.
This is just a taste of the extensive outdoor adventures Knoxville has available. Explore even more opportunities to get outside in Knoxville.
Franklin is filled with Christmas wonder.