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Shady Valley

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Winter B

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Site Description and Habitats

Shady Valley is a high bowl-shaped valley (elevation ~ 2800 ft.) surrounded on three sides by higher ridges: Holston, Iron, and Cross Mountains (elevation ~ 3400-4200 ft). Beaverdam Creek, which drains the valley, flows northward into Virginia; the last few miles tumble through a forested gorge. The valley floor once held large cranberry bogs and spruce-hemlock forests. Today most of this area consists of small farms, woodlots, and home sites with a pleasant rural feel. Two stores and a small restaurant sit at the main crossroad.

The Nature Conservancy owns several tracts in Shady Valley which provide excellent birding opportunities. The best of these are the Orchard Bog, Quarry Bog, and Schoolyard Springs preserves. The two bogs consist of large fields and wetland restoration areas. Mowed walking paths provide access to marsh edges. Schoolyard Springs is a smaller, more wooded tract with a short boardwalk and walking path. The Jenkins Cranberry Bog is a tiny remnant of a bygone era. Several side roads in the valley offer good roadside birding. Examples are Orchard Road, Winchester Road, and Gentry Road / Sluder Road. Please do not trespass on private property.

The Cherokee National Forest provides low to mid-elevation woodland birding. Pull-offs on Hwy 133 are beside lower Beaverdam Creek and geology alone justifies a stop at Backbone Rock. Roadside pull-offs on Hwy 421 and the Appalachian Trail provide access to the mountain tops and mid-slopes.

Bird species of interest

Spring and Fall Migration: American Bittern, Virginia Rail (possibly year round), Sora, a variety of warblers and vireos including Black-throated Green (breeder too), Blackburnian, Tennessee, Black-throated Blue (breeder), Magnolia, Bay-breasted, and Cape May Warbler, plus American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Sedge and Marsh Wrens, Philadelphia Vireo, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Bobolink. Shorebirds may be found in the shallow water of the bogs as well, including Spotted, Solitary, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Wilson's Snipe. Merlin, LeConte's Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Summer: Green Heron, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Eastern Kingbird

Winter: Golden Eagle, White-throated, Fox, White-crowned, Field, and Swamp Sparrows, Winter Wren

Year-Round: Song Sparrow, Common Raven, Great Horned Owl, Hairy Woodpecker

Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Quarry Bog

Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Orchard Bog

Species list via eBird Hotspot Explorer - Schoolyard Springs

Submit your data to eBird here

Other wildlife viewing opportunities

Detailed directions for birding Shady Valley o To reach Shady Valley, take Hwy 421 South from Bristol or North from Mountain City; or Hwy 91 North from Elizabethton. May also be reached from Damascus, VA, by taking Hwy 133 south.

The intersection of Hwy 421, Hwy 91, and Hwy 133 in Shady Valley is referred to here as the "main crossroad" in the following individual site directions:

Orchard Bog Preserve: From the main crossroad, go north on Hwy 421 for 0.8 mile, turn left on Orchard Road, go 1.5 mile and turn left into gravel driveway. Park near the small stone house. The Jenkins Cranberry Bog is 0.1 mile further on right.

Quarry Bog Preserve: From the main crossroad, go north on Hwy 133 for 0.8 mile and turn left into gravel driveway (first left past the Church of Christ), continue straight down this driveway through gate and park.

Schoolyard Spring Preserve: From main crossroad, go north on Hwy 133 for 0.2 mile and turn left on Long Road, continue 0.1 mile and park on left at sign for preserve. This is next to the elementary school.

Appalachian Trail access: From main crossroad, go south on Hwy 91 for 3.7 miles to parking lot on left for trail on crest of Cross Mountain at the Johnson / Carter County line.. Another access point can be reached by going north on Hwy 421 for 2.8 miles to Low Gap on Holston Mountain at the Johnson / Sullivan County line.

Cherokee National Forest: All roads leading into Shady Valley pass through National Forest lands. Hwy 421 crosses Holston Mountain, with a few pull-offs available along the hwy, then continues over Iron Mountain en route to Mountain City. Hwy 91 goes over Cross Mountain, but offers few stopping points until you reach the Appalachian Trail crossing on top. On Hwy 133, at 3.0 miles north of the main crossroad is McQueen Gap Road on left. Continuing north on Hwy 133 are several pull-offs once you reach the forested area, as well as parking at Backbone Rock and a campground / picnic area just beyond.

Lat-Long (GPS) coordinates
Main Crossroads: 36.51900, -81.92863
Orchard Bog Preserve: 36.509028,-81.9475
Quarry Bog Preserve: 36.527183,-81.919315
Schoolyard Spring Preserve: 36.523618,-81.925468

Fees and Hours
Open year round, daylight hours.

There are no restroom facilities.

The Nature Conservancy

Info for other sites
Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife web site