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Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park

Birding Seasons:
Spring A+
Summer A
Fall A+
Winter B

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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!

Year-Round: Barred Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee,

Rarities Seen at this Site: Short-eared Owl, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Ross's Goose. Swainson's Warbler was on territory near the bridge over the Cumberland River in 2011 and 2012.

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

Other wildlife viewing opportunities
Butterflies, dragonflies, and white-tailed deer can be common.

Detailed directions for birding Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park
From I-65/I-24, take Exit 49 (the first exit north of the Cumberland River) and go east on Shelby Avenue. Turn right (south) onto South 5th Street to the T-intersection with Davidson Street. Turn left (east) onto Davidson St. and follow it past the stone entrance columns into Shelby 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
Most birders park at the lot on the west side at the railroad trestle by the Nature Center and walk the main paved trail along the river. How far you go can depend on how much time you have. If only an hour or two, walk the trail along the river past to river overlook platform. Work the wooded strip along the river and scan the river from the overlook. Then take one of the loops to the north and work your way back west towards the parking lot. The observation platform is also a reliable place to observe courting
American Woodcock during February and March. The shallow "shorebird pond" is, unfortunately, not visible from the observation platform because of tree growth around the pond. The existing pond can be accessed from an informal trail branching off of the paved trail on the north side of the pond. American Bitterns, Soras, Virginia Rails and a variety of ducks have been observed in this pond. Sedge Wrens are often found during migration and early winter in the fields around the observation platform.

Lat-Long (GPS) coordinates
Nature Center: 36.166289, -86.724939
Shorebird Pond nearest the Nature Center: 36.168715, -86.721977
Mission Hill: 36.1705, -86.7357
Bridge over the Cumberland River, access via Two Rivers Park: 36.190347, -86.691273
Phase 3 access via Forrest Green Rd and parking lot: 36.197291, -86.702827

Fees and Hours
Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park is open dawn until dusk every day. Nature Center is open Tuesday-Saturday year round.

Restrooms are available at the Nature Center.

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center

Info for other sites
Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife web site