This eastern Tennessee park had been a farm for most of the 20th century. Now it's a hotspot where more than 200 species have been recorded.
By Patricia Mitchell | Published: 6/15/2018
Having lived in Tennessee most of my life, I take great pride in our state parks system. It consists of 56 properties, all free to access. The state’s newest park is Seven Islands State Birding Park. As the name implies, it was created as a place to go birding.
The park had been a farm for most of the 20th century, and in 2002 it became a wildlife refuge through a collaboration between the Seven Islands Foundation, a nonprofit land conservancy, and the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department. It opened as a state park in July 2014.
The best way to enjoy the park is by walking one of its four main trails. They range in round-trip length from 1.6 miles (the Upland Trail Inner Loop) to 3.4 miles (the Seclusion Bend Trail).
More than 200 species have been recorded here, including waterfowl, waders, raptors, shorebirds, owls, and songbirds. On a visit this spring, another birder and I saw common species like Cedar Waxwing, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Field Sparrow, and best of all a Harris’s Sparrow, which is rare for Tennessee.
Patricia Mitchell is an archivist at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. She has written for Alabama Heritage, a quarterly history magazine.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Grassland, wetlands, forest, and river.
More than 8 miles of trails through rolling hills. A wheelchair-accessible trail and a pedestrian bridge across the river expected to be completed in fall 2018.
Kelly Lane Greenway: Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp, Song, Field, and Savannah Sparrows. Seven Islands Loop Trail: Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Prairie Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Wild Turkey, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Upland Trail Inner Loop: Northern Harrier, Field, White-throated, Fox, and White-crowned Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Shumpert’s Pond: Green Heron, waterfowl. Seclusion Bend Trail: Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron, Prothonotary Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Wood Duck, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, and Eastern Kingbird.
When to go
Year-round. Best in morning and late afternoon.
Portable restroom next to parking lot. Bird walks, banding sessions, photography classes, and other events; check upcoming events page. Checklist on park website.
State park. Open sunrise to sunset. Plentiful parking. No entry or parking fees. Dogs permitted but must stay on leash at all times.
Wear good walking shoes and bring a trekking pole for wet days.
For more info
House Mountain State Natural Area
About 15 miles north of Seven Islands, in Corryton. Mountain forest featuring Broad-winged Hawk, warblers, Indigo Bunting, Pileated Woodpecker, and Scarlet Tanager.
Ijams Nature Center
About 30 minutes west of Seven Islands, on Island Home Ave. in Knoxville. More than 150 species. Great for warblers and other migrants.