The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary in Shady Valley.
Birch Branch Sanctuary The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary in Shady Valley. © Terry Cook/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary

Tennessee

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

The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary is located in Tennessee's easternmost point, the 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. 

This nature preserve exists thanks to the generousity of Marie Dickey Kalman, who donated the property to The Nature Conservancy. 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 an additional acres to secure a ridge over Birch Branch. Then, in 2017, through a benefactor’s land donation, TNC added 80 acres to expand the property to its current size.

Today, TNC is restoring native warm-season grasses to the preserve's old farm fields. These native warm-season grasses provide superior nutrition and excellent habitat for songbirds, game birds and butterflies. TNC has restored more than 20 acres of farm fields to native warm-season grasses at the preserve. Controlled ecological burns are a part of the restoration and maintenance process. The Bristol Bird Club also does annual bird counts on the property.

What to See

Aside from natural beauty, the John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary possesses great native biodiversity. It offers ideal habitat for myriad plant, invertebrate, and mammal species throughout the forested hillsides, along the banks of Birch Branch and Beaverdam Creek, and among the open fields. A sphagnum-covered bog at an outlet above the old farmhouse is the rarest habitat found on the preserve.

Also on the property, a shale cliff formed by Beaverdam Creek harbors numerous rare plant and animal species. In addition, rhododendron thickets throughout the sanctuary provide habitat for songbirds, such as the rare Swainson’s warbler. Other areas of interest include Beaverdam Creek and its tributary streams, which are abundant in native brook trout.

There are four trails on the sanctuary that range in difficulty from moderate to strenuous. There is good fishing in Beaverdam Creek.

Support Tennessee Nature

Help us work with landowners and ensure a future in which people and nature can thrive.