Mountain wetlands make Shady Valley one of Southern Appalachia’s most ecologically important areas.
Shady Valley has long been recognized as one of the Southern Appalachians' most ecologically important areas. It represents a rare high-elevation remnant of the last Ice Age, once covered with a network of sphagnum/cranberry peat bogs and white pine/hemlock forests , which supported a rich community of plant and animal life. As the human population has grown and drained most of the wetlands, these plants and animals have become increasingly rare and threatened.
To protect the wetland plants and animals of this special place from extinction, The Nature Conservancy purchased its first nature preserve in Shady Valley in 1979, the Jess Jenkins Cranberry Bog. The Conservancy later transferred the preserve to East Tennessee State University for scientific research and educational purposes.
Today TNC owns four preserves and 797 total acres in Shady Valley, some which is leased for haying, grazing and/or hunting when the practices are consistent with standard protection strategies for the rare plants and animals located in the area.
What TNC Has Done/Is Doing
Since 1997, TNC has had a satellite office in Shady Valley staffed by longtime residents who work to preserve and restore the few mountain bog sites still remaining in the area. These restorations have been identified as the single most important factor in the long-term protection of rare wetland plant species like the wild cranberry and the bog turtle. As with all of its work, TNC seeks to find solutions that allow people and nature to live in harmony together.
Shady Valley Milestones
At the end of the Last Glacial Period the massive sheet of ice that covered North America retreated and carved out unique landscapes like Shady Valley.
The first white settlers arrive in Shady Valley and used the settlement as an important site for trade.
The Unites States government begins the first major drainage of the Shady Valley wetlands in the 1930s. The wetlands are drained to create suitable land for crops, timber, and pasture for livestock. Additionally, ditches are dug to channelize water away from the drying landscape.
In the 1960s, Shady Valley undergoes its second and most significant drainage of the wetlands. More of the unique glacial wetland disappears through further drainage and channelization.
TNC purchases the 1-acre Jess Jenkins Cranberry Bog on Orchard Road. This remnant bog has the only wild cranberries remaining anywhere in Tennessee and will be used for study and preservation.
From 1994 to 1996 TNC purchases 65-acre Orchard Bog Preserve in three phases. In 1996, Marie Dickey Kalman donates the 459-acre John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary to TNC. In 1997, TNC begins the first wetland restoration project in the valley at Orchard Bog. In 1998, TNC purchases the 65-acre Quarry Bog Preserve. In 1999, TNC purchases the 10-acre Schoolyard Springs Preserve.
In 2000, TNC conducts a 2nd wetland restoration project at Quarry Bog. In 2006, TNC purchases an additional 80+ acres at Orchard Bog. TNC adds 12 acres to Schoolyard Springs in 2007. In 2009, TNC completes a 3rd wetland restoration project at Orchard Bog.
In 2011, TNC completes the 4th and largest wetland and stream restoration project at Orchard Bog. In 2014, 3 acres are added to Quarry Bog. In 2017, TNC adds 5 acres to Orchard Bog. In 2018, TNC adds 7 acres to Schoolyard Springs preserve.
What's At Stake
Shady Valley supports at least 26 rare plants and animals. The valley's wetlands are one of only two places in Tennessee where cranberries grow naturally. These wetlands are also home to the bog turtle, which is federally listed as a threatened species. Beavers, golden eagles, great blue herons, common barn owls, deer, turkey and black bears can also be found in this area.
Join us for the Annual Cranberry Festival in Shady Valley in October.
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