Places We Protect

John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary

Tennessee

Blue skies and white clouds frame a colorful and lush mountain valley.
Birch Branch Sanctuary The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary in Shady Valley. © Terry Cook/The Nature Conservancy

This Shady Valley forest preserve contains wooded hillsides, rocky streams and rolling fields.

Overview

Description

The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary is located in Tennessee's easternmost point, Shady Valley. Within the preserve are steep and verdant hillsides, rocky streams and rolling fields. It is surrounded on all sides by the Cherokee National Forest and conservation easement lands. 

Today, The Nature Conservancy is restoring native warm-season grasses to the preserve's old farm fields. These grasses were once part of the ecological mosaic of Tennessee's native woodland habitats and are carefully being restored and maintained through controlled ecological burns. TNC is also practicing sustainable forest management here to increase the diversity of the preserve’s tree species for wildlife benefits.

Access

Limited Access

Call our Shady Valley office at 423-739-2537 to arrange a visit.

Highlights

Black bear, deer, turkey

Size

549 acres

Explore our work in this region

An orange salamander rests on green moss.
Eastern Newt An eastern newt rests on moss at TNC's Birch Branch Sanctuary in Tennessee. © The Nature Conservancy/Terry Cook

Background

The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary exists thanks to the generosity of Marie Dickey Kalman, who donated the property to TNC in 1996. The land was originally purchased by Mrs. Kalman’s grandfather, Dr. John R. Dickey, with the purpose of protecting what he believed was "one of the prettiest places on Earth."

TNC later purchased additional acres to secure a forested ridge above Birch Branch to filter water flowing into this native trout stream. Then in 2017, a benefactor’s land donation made it possible for TNC to add an additional 80 acres to expand the property to its current size.

Visit

  • What You'll See

    Grasses Among the lush fields of Birch Branch grow restored native warm season grass meadows that provide superior nutrition and excellent habitat for songbirds, game birds and butterflies.

    Wetlands A sphagnum-covered bog at an outlet above the old farmhouse is the rarest habitat found on the preserve. Also, a shale cliff formed by Beaverdam Creek harbors numerous rare plant and animal species.

    Plants/Shrubs Rhododendron thickets throughout the sanctuary provide habitat for songbirds such as the rare Swainson’s warbler. 

    Animals Black bear is the most common bear species in North America. Deer, turkey and ruffed grouse can also be found roaming throughout the preserve. 

  • Peak Use
    • Temperatures stay cool and rainy in the spring months. If you’re looking for a cool getaway, head over to the valley.
    • In October, the town of Shady Valley hosts an annual cranberry festival. (Visit local websites for more information.) During this time you will also witness the fall foliage reaching its peak.
    • If you’re searching for a winter wonderland, visit the preserve in January and February!
  • Preserve Guidelines
    • Access to the preserve is by permission only; there is a locked gate at the property entrance.
    • Due to the delicate natural area, the following activities are prohibited: motorized vehicles (ATVs), horses, bicycles, collecting plants and animals, camping, fires and rock climbing.
    • Check the local weather forecast, and dress accordingly. A hat and drinking water are recommended. During warm weather, light-colored and light-weight clothing is suggested. Insect repellent, binoculars and bird watching field guide(s) are also worth bringing. (This is an excellent site for bird watching.) 
    • Dogs are allowed on leash.
    • The preserve is open to hunting, by permission, only during the fall hunting season. Blaze orange/bright colors are recommended for hikers and nature watchers during deer season.

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