Seven Islands State Birding Park is the newest gem in TN’s system of 56 parks. The park encompasses 423 acres along the French Broad River where grounds are managed as a grasslands and river habitat for 190 species of birds. The peninsula showcases rolling hills, some woodlands and more than 8 miles of trail frequented by hikers and birders. It is also used in research and education for area schools and other groups. A small canoe/kayak launch has been added in recent years. On my goal list is to participate in one of the group paddles offered weekends during the summer months.
This past Sunday we packed up the dog and headed to Seven Islands to do bit of walking and to explore the newly built pedestrian bridge that connects the Seven Islands mainland to Newman Island. While Seven Islands is beautiful anytime you choose to visit, we find the park particularly stunning in the winter. Tall grasses have turned golden, seed pods flutter in the breeze and leaves are off the tree so high point views are vast and beautiful. On a somewhat overcast sky, such as Sunday’s sky, photography is dramatic.
This rustic barn greets park visitors as they come in from the main parking lot. While it offers picnic tables and park literature, it also provides much needed shade during the summer months. Behind the barn, trails split in several directions depending on your destination. Ours was the pedestrian bridge.
As it turns out, the path to the bridge is handicap accessible so the grades were not steep and the entire trail was paved. Standing water from recent heavy rain was visible along the trail. The park was busy with hikers and lots of dogs but it never felt crowded.
As the pedestrian bridge came into view, it was bigger and more impressive than we expected. Large concrete pillars support a wide structure above what was a fast moving river on this day. The new trail and bridge are not only ADA approved but also large enough for bicyclists and hikers to share.
The view from the middle of the bridge was impressive. On one side the sky was cloudy and blue on the other side, cloudy and grey.
Once on the island, we discovered a natural surface loop trail. We hiked along with a puppy that was becoming increasingly impatient to get in the water. We were not anxious because of the steep drop-offs and fast moving water but we let her sniff it out, harness and leash on, hoping she would realize swimming was not a good idea. I know, I know, we are the adults here.
She headed right in. When she realized her big man paws would not touch bottom, she clung to the bank with all she had. You can see a wide paw stance, water swirling around her and John’s feet as he hurried to grab her harness and get her back on solid ground. She did not try to get in the water again.
Newman Island loop trail followed along the water’s edge (right) as it circled the island. Bare trees and winter grass were stark against the cloudy sky.
As we headed back to the car, we detoured to take a trail previously unknown to us. The trail is and out and back, .6 miles in one direction. It meanders up a hillside, through a forest to a ridge high above the park where the views are stunning. Below is a view of the pedestrian bridge we had just crossed.
Another ridge view of mountains, the river and the ridge top.
We returned home with a tired, muddy puppy and good memories of a Sunday morning spent at Seven Island State Birding Park.