Orchard Bog in Shady Valley.
Orchard Bog. Orchard Bog in Shady Valley. © Charles McQueen/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Shady Valley


Mountain wetlands make Shady Valley one of Southern Appalachia’s most ecologically important areas.

►Join Us for the Annual Cranberry Festival in Shady Valley in October.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Area

Shady Valley has long been recognized as one of the Southern Appalachians' most ecologically important areas, a rare high-elevation remnant of the last Ice Age. Shady Valley was 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 the Conservancy owns four preserves and 705 total acres in Shady Valley, including 469 acres of mountain land and approximately 236 acres on the valley floor. The Conservancy permits or leases land in Shady Valley for haying, cattle, and/or hunting — practices which are consistent with standard protection strategies for the rare plants and animals in the area. Of the 705 acres owned by The Nature Conservancy, 452 were donated by a charitable individual in 1996. The rest were purchased at fair market value from willing sellers.

Our nature preserves in Shady Valley are the John R. Dickey Birch Branch Sanctuary, Schoolyard Springs, Orchard Bog and Quarry Bog.

Plants and Animals

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.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Since 1997, The Nature Conservancy has had a satellite office in Shady Valley staffed by longtime valley residents. The Conservancy has worked to preserve and restore the few mountain bog sites still remaining in Shady Valley. 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 in Shady Valley. The Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the valley's unique cultural and natural heritage. As with all of its work, The Nature Conservancy seeks to find solutions that allow people and nature to live in harmony together.

For more information, download our Shady Valley brochure (.pdf).

Watch a video about our protection and restoration work in Shady Valley.