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Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park
Site Description and Habitats
This site is an 810-acre linear park approximately three miles long and one-half mile wide. Shelby Park marks the southern boundary, a residential area the western edge, the Cumberland River the east side, and Cooper Creek and another residential area define the northern boundary. The landscape is mostly flat alluvial floodplain with small upland areas and is drained by several deep ravines. Approximately 75% of the area is mowed or irregularly mowed fields that had been in agricultural use before the area became a park in 1994. The wooded area includes some upland forest with Shumard, Red, White and Bur oaks as well as hickories, hackberry, and elm. The bottomland habitat includes a variety of oaks and hickories with beech, ash, elm, and Sweetgum. Several large stands of native cane line the ravines. The aquatic features include an old beaver pond/wetland, a small pond/wetland with recent beaver activity on the north end, a small frog pond, two restored ponds, some natural wetland areas, and the Cumberland River.
The Bottoms, which has a north and south entrance with parking areas and orientation signage, includes approximately eight miles of paved multiuse greenway trail and five miles of mulched trails, an observation platform, and river overlooks. In 2008, a new Nature Center was opened to the public. In addition, a bridge was completed at the east end of the Greenway, which connects with the area near Opry Mills Mall.
The main trailhead and entrance is at the end of Davidson Street, just east of the railroad trestle separating Shelby Park and Shelby Bottoms. Follow the directions above for Shelby Park and continue on Davidson Street to the Shelby Bottoms Greenway parking area under the railroad bridge. Several signs mark the route to Shelby Bottoms.
Bird species of interest
Spring and Fall Migration: Nearly all transient warblers, vireos, thrushes and flycatchers are found annually. Golden-winged Warbler tends to occur in fall, but Olive-sided Flycatchers are found in spring and fall. Lincoln’s Sparrow and Orange-crowned Warbler are more often found in fall. Sedge and Marsh Wrens are typically found in fall. Connecticut and Mourning Warblers are found annually, usually only in May. Shorebirds are occasionally found on the "shorebird" pond but the woods have grown up around the pond and there's often not really any habitat for many, if any, shorebirds other than the omnipresent Killdeer.
Summer: Blue Grosbeak, Field Sparrows, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo and Orchard Orioles nest along the river. Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, and Baltimore Oriole may be found all summer. Chimney Swifts seem to be present all summer in the skies.
Winter: Winter sparrows abound, including Swamp, Song, Field, Fox, White-throated and White-crowned. Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, and Brown Creeper. In March 2014 a major irruption of American Tree Sparrows occurred for a couple days after an extremely cold front. Be sure to look through all the sparrows!
Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - hotspot for the entire park
Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Phase 3
Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Mission Hill
Submit your data to eBird here
Detailed directions for birding Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park
To get to the Mission Hill area of Shelby Park (see below), exit I-65/I-24 at Exit 49 and take Shelby Avenue east to the 4-way stop at South 19th Street. Go straight through the intersection and turn left (north) onto the next street, South 20th Street. Park in the paved community center lot on the right.
The Cooper Creek trailhead is located at the northeast, upstream end of Shelby Bottoms. To get to the paved parking area for this trailhead from the main Shelby Bottoms entrance, turn right (north) after leaving the parking lot. Continue taking right turns until you cross back under the railroad trestle and intersect with Riverside Drive. Turn left (north) onto Riverside. After about a mile, turn right (east) onto Rosebank Avenue. Follow Rosebank through several curves to Welcome Lane, which is just past the larger intersection with Porter Road. Turn right (east) on Welcome Lane and then left (north) onto Forrest Green Drive. The parking area is at the end of Forrest Green.
Birding Shelby Bottoms
Lat-Long (GPS) coordinates
Fees and Hours
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