Taking a leisurely stroll with a good friend in the tranquil setting off the Old Hickory Nature Trail helps melt the stress of our usual concrete and asphalt world.

Find Recreational Bliss at Old Hickory Dam

Old Hickory Dam’s downstream side has mostly been restored since the May 2010 flood. The walkways on the north side seem to be the only area not re-established but anglers can walk the riprap down to the water.

This is one of my favorite places to fish. I’ve been there on Memorial Day and my boat was the only one there for most of the day. I fish for stripers, stripe, smallmouth bass, crappie, sauger, walleye and catfish. I’ve found trolling a crankbait or casting a jig catches most fish species. For catfish, I use chunks of skipjacks and nightcrawlers for bait fished on the bottom.

Rick Smethers usually guides for crappie but when a hefty catfish bites he enjoys the fight - then releases the fish.

But not all the fish are near the dam. I head downstream fishing creek mouths, bluffs and bars as far down as Hills Island, about five miles from the dam.

If you like hiking and wildlife watching then you’ll enjoy the Old Hickory Lake Nature Trail as well as going up the creeks. The Nature Trail begins at the parking lot on your left as you turn along the curve running parallel to the Cumberland River. There’s more parking space across the road (with restrooms) and it gives bank anglers access to the tailwaters. The trail totals 1.1 miles in three loops. Each loop is unique and have boardwalks. All trails return you to the trailhead via a paved old railroad bed built in 1952; it was used to get construction materials and equipment to the dam site.

Go right just beyond the trailhead and you’re on the 0.4-mile Woodland Loop. This is an excellent birding site and good for small wildlife such as squirrels and raccoons. There is an observation platform too.

While using a trolling motor to venture up Manskers Creek close to the dam, I saw two muskrats swimming underwater chasing fish. Later, when leaving the creek, there was one on the bank eating a fish.

The 0.2-mile Willow Swamp Loop begins at the end of the Woodland Loop or you could go left from the trailhead to the path. A boardwalk takes you across the swamp. This is another excellent birding site as well catching a glimpse of other wildlife.

Wildlife Loop, another 0.2 mile jaunt, leads to a fishing pond. In 1967, the pines that were planted are now a forest large enough to provide protection for white-tailed deer.
As you leave the pines you will see a pond. The fishing platform makes a nice observation area too. The trail provides a nice mix of forest birds and is one of the few places in middle Tennessee to find Pine Warblers. Other birds common to the forest and field areas along this trail are barred owls, a variety of sparrows, including field, swamp, white-throated and song sparrows. Keep watching and you may see the bald eagle that has had nested close to this trail for several years.

A map of the trail and driving directions is available here. The kiosk at the trailhead provides additional information and a large map.

If you go down to the Cumberland River bank, you can see cormorants, a variety of herons, cormorants, other birds, muskrats and maybe a beaver feeding along the bank.
Usually the trails, river banks and the Cumberland River are not crowded and serene… but don’t tell anyone.

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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