The Twin Arches at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area represent one of the world’s largest natural bridge complexes with a South Arch that is 103 feet high and spans 135 feet and the North Arch that is 62 feet high with a clearance of 51 feet and a span of 93 feet. Photo NPS.

Celebrate Endangered Species Day in Tennessee

In the midst of enjoying the beauty of springtime in Tennessee, do you find yourself keeping an eye out for your favorite patch of wildflowers or the return of butterflies and migratory songbirds? And when you see fewer of your favorites, do you ever wonder if there’s a problem with habitat or species decline?

There’s a wealth of information about the current status of species identified for protection, including the 18 species of plants and 71 species of animals considered endangered or threatened in our state, available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973 resulted in ongoing efforts by public, private organizations and individuals nationwide to identify and reduce threats to our nation’s endangered species and their habitats. Under the ESA, species may be listed as either “endangered,” i.e., in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant  portion of its range, or “threatened” and likely to become endangered soon unless counter measures are taken.

Congress also set aside a day to shine a spotlight on conservation efforts and how folks like you and me can help. This year Endangered Species Day is May 16 and a guided Endangered Species Day Hike is scheduled for 10 a.m. CST May 17 at Twin Arches State Natural Area at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Cumberland Plateau.

Encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork offers scenic gorges, sandstone bluffs and arches, camping, hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing, paddling, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, hunting and fishing in some of the most rugged and spectacular terrain gracing Tennessee.

On a clear night in this picturesque setting free of light pollution the night sky is one of the prettiest sites you’ll ever see. Expand this two million light-year view during one of the monthly programs presented by the University of Tennessee in cooperation with Big South Fork this summer.

Image 3 Charit Creek CS

Add more adventure to your trip with an overnight stay at the only lodging within Big South Fork at Charit Creek, a rustic, remote lodge accessible by foot, bike or horseback only. Lanterns, coolers, wood stoves, dinner and breakfast are provided for full-service lodgers. There are also options for more bare-bones hostel-type lodging. Well-behaved dogs are also welcomed as long as you follow the canine guidelines.

In addition to Charit Creek which can handle a maximum of 48 people, Big South Fork contains five developed campgrounds including Bandy Creek with its bathhouse, playground, horse stables and swimming pool. There are also options for primitive camping.

This is a chance to enjoy exceptional scenery and learn about the importance of protecting endangered species from Andrea Bishop, Division of Natural Areas, Marie Tackett, National Park Service and Geoff Call, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during a two-mile hike to the dazzling Twin Arches, impressive sandstone geological formations consisting of two sandstone arches situated end-to-end.

RSVP to Andrea Bishop by May 12 at 615-741-9141 or

The Division of Natural Areas will hold its annual Spring Hike and Crawdad Hootenanny 10 a.m. CST May 17 at Colditz Cove State Natural Area led by David Withers, natural heritage program zoologist. RSVP to him at 615-532-0441 or by May 14.

Pickett State Park, adjacent to Big South Fork, has four styles of rental cabins ranging from Image 5 Pickett cabin cssrustic cabins dating back to 1934-1942 to deluxe cabins that can house up to eight people. There are also 32 campsites with electric and water hookups, picnic tables, grills, bathhouse, dump station, a 12-acre lake and 58 miles of hiking trails.

There’s lodging and food nearby at Historic Rugby where a Utopian colony was established by a British visionary during the 1880s but this usually peaceful, quaint community will be hopping during the 40th Anniversary Rugby Spring Festival May 16-18.

Visit the Tennessee Natural Areas website for additional guided hikes this summer including a trip on June 7 to celebrate one of our prettiest endangered species success stories, our native Tennessee coneflower.

All of these events should be fun. Which appeals most to you?


*Photos courtesy of Cathy Summerlin

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

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