Places We Protect

Shady Valley


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

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

Long recognized as one of the Southern Appalachians' most ecologically important areas, northeast Tennessee’s Shady Valley reveals a rare, high-elevation remnant of the last Ice Age—a hidden treasure blanketed in a mosaic of sphagnum/cranberry peat bogs and white pine/hemlock forests. A diverse array of plants and animals, many of them also found in New England’s famous cranberry bogs, have sheltered in Shady Valley due to its elevation and climate.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, a growing human population and its need for food resulted in draining of most of Shady Valley’s wetlands for agriculture, leaving just a few scattered patches where native plants and animals clung to existence. To protect Shady Valley’s increasingly rare ecosystems and species from local 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 nature preserves totaling over 800 acres in Shady Valley. 

Fruit from the cranberry bog located at The Nature Conservancy's Shady Valley preserves in Tennessee.
Cranberries Fruit from the cranberry bog located at The Nature Conservancy's Shady Valley preserves in Tennessee. © The Nature Conservancy/Gabby Lynch

Restoring Shady Valley

Shady Valley supports at least 26 rare plants and animals. The valley's wetlands represent one of only two places in Tennessee where American cranberry grows naturally. These wetlands are also home to the southern bog turtle, which is listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Beaver, golden eagles, migratory shorebirds and songbirds, and ever-present deer, turkey and black bears also inhabit TNC’s Shady Valley preserves.

Since 1996, TNC has employed longtime valley residents at its Shady Valley office in order to preserve, restore and expand the few remaining mountain bog sites. This work serves as the most important factor in the long-term protection of rare wetland species like the American cranberry and southern bog turtle in Tennessee.

TNC also augments the preservation of Shady Valley’s unique cultural and natural heritage in ways that encourage people and nature to thrive together. TNC fosters this by hosting regular educational and birding tours, and sponsoring academic research projects pursued by students ranging from the high school through post-graduate levels. The Schoolyard Springs Preserve includes a field station that is used by partner agencies, organizations and individuals who are devoting time to studying and conserving Shady Valley’s many natural treasures.

Thorny Problems

Read about what happened when a Nature Conservancy magazine writer volunteered to spend a day removing invasive multiflora rose from a bog in Tennessee's Shady Valley. 

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

Support Tennessee Nature

We with landowners to ensure a future in which people and nature can thrive.