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


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

The John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary is an ideal site to visit during any time of year. The rhododendron thickets bloom in late June, and other flowering plants begin to bloom early in the spring and last through the fall. Sightings of larger wildlife such as black bear, deer and turkey are common.

Shady Valley, Johnson County

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The 452-acre sanctuary was donated to the Tennessee chapter in December 1996 by Marie Dickey Kalman. 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." The Conservancy later purchased an additional 17 acres to secure a ridge over Birch Branch, enlarging the site to 469 total acres.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy 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. The Nature Conservancy 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.

Open year-round, dawn to dusk by appointment. Call our Shady Valley office: 423-739-2537.

This sanctuary is located at Tennessee's easternmost point, Shady Valley, in the mountains just northeast of town. 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.

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

You will need to make arrangements with our staff before visiting this preserve. Call our Shady Valley office: 423-739-2537.