Fall is here!
The summer heat has finally broken and the time is ripe to be exploring outdoors again. There are a lot of great places and wildlife events to catch before the cold of winter sets in.
Elk are bugling at North Cumberland WMA
Restoration of elk in Tennessee is in progress. We currently have about 400 elk in the growing herd in the north Cumberland Mountains. Males are bugling now through October as their mating season is kicking into full swing. The best place to see and hear elk bugling is Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower on North Cumberland WMA. See elk page for more information on Tennessee's elk and how to get to the viewing tower.
September through early November is a great time to see hawks migrating through Tennessee in big numbers. Places like Soddy Mountain near Chattanooga and Big Bald Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest are excellent places to see raptors in migration. Kettles of hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks may be seen into early October at these sites. Vultures, Osprey, accipiters and buteos, plus the occasional Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Bald Eagle are also seen. Golden Eagles are rare, but can be seen typically later in migration.
In west Tennessee, raptors move in smaller numbers, but any viewing area along the Mississippi River can provide a view of a migrating Peregrine Falcon or Merlin. Tiptonville Ferry Landing in Lake County and Island 13 in Dyer County and Ensley Bottoms Complex (The Pits, TVA Lakes) and the Mississipp River Greenbelt Park in Memphis are also good places to look for raptors (and shorebirds). If you are already in Memphis, a stop at T.O. Fuller State Park can be worthwhile.
Hiking and birding (songbirds) is excellent in fall.
*Hunting seasons have also begun, so be sure to check the TWRA hunting guide for hunt dates. Hunting also occurs on national forests, national wildlife refuges, national recreation areas, and on private lands. Some areas are best to be avoided during big game hunts (i.e. gun season for deer). State Parks and county and city parks generally do not allow hunting, so trails are open year round, but check before you go. I've provided a handful of locations for hiking and exploring in fall where hunting is either not allowed or is open on a very limited basis.
Fort Pillow State Historic Park has long trails through the forested bluffs along the Mississippi River.
Wolf River WMA (and Ghost River SNA) has a mile long trail through flooded forest that is open year round.
Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville is famous for its birds and trails. Fall hiking around the lake is great way to spend a half day or a whole day (if you hiked all the trails).
Beaman Park is in northwest Davidson County and has several trails of varying distances. Trails wander through open forest and along creeks.
Cedars of Lebanon State Park is a great place for a weekend getaway with hiking, camping, and birding.
Percy Priest Lake has many shorter hiking trails and lake access points that are wonderful to explore in fall.
Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville has miles of trails and great birds!
Norris Dam has a trail below the dam that has been great for forest birds.
Cove Lake State Park has trails and viewing of the lake. This spot is always great for wildlife watching.