Schoolyard Springs

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Boardwalk and Trails, Wildflower and Bird Viewing View All

Plan Your Visit

Thanks to the boardwalk, you can visit these wetlands without getting your feet wet. View All

Get Directions

Why You Should Visit
Thousands of years ago, the massive sheet of ice that once covered the North American continent receded, scouring and carving the earth as it gradually migrated to the northern latitudes. Shady Valley, with its plants and animals that are characteristic of more northern climes, is a living legacy of the last Ice Age. Within Shady Valley, Schoolyard Springs is a rare and unusual example of wetlands that used to cover much of the valley floor. The natural sandy springs at this 22-acre Nature Conservancy preserve provide habitat for many rare plants.

Shady Valley, Johnson County

The preserve's boardwalk is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. To protect this wetland area, please stay on the boardwalk and mowed walking trails.

A beautiful boardwalk allows you to view the wetland springs without getting your feet wet! Those who don't mind getting their feet damp or dirty may also explore mowed paths that wind around to Beaverdam Creek. Some areas off the boardwalk may be damp or muddy. Dogs are allowed on leash.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The preserve includes Beaverdam Creek frontage and an accompanying streamside area between two bogs, making it important to our restoration and protection work in the valley. What makes Schoolyard Springs unusual is its sandy, seemingly bottomless upwelling of fresh water from the bubbling springs. Before the valley was channelized, Beaverdam Creek snaked along the valley floor, leaving seasonally wet areas in its path. Schoolyard Springs is believed to be a remnant of an earlier creek meander and a relic of forested pools that once dotted the valley floor.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
In October 1998, the Conservancy acquired 9-acre Schoolyard Springs, one of the Conservancy's most unique properties. Completed in 2002, the boardwalk, which is elevated above the wetland, is a wonderful tool used to educate the public about this special preserve. In 2007, the Conservancy purchased 13 more acres to increase the preserve's stream frontage.

How to Prepare for Your Visit
Check the local weather forecast and dress accordingly. A hat and drinking water are recommended. During warm weather light-colored and light-weight clothing is suggested. Binoculars and field guides are also worth bringing, as the wetlands attract many unusual bird species.

What to See: Plants
Rare plants such as Barrett's sedge and marsh marigold are found here.

This preserve is compact, but in addition to the boardwalk there are mowed trails along the creek. Activities can include short, easy walks; views of many unusual plants and flowers; and bird and wildlife watching.

In addition to the boardwalk, there are mowed paths winding along the creek on the 22-acre preserve. If you plan to walk these, wear shoes made for wet or muddy ground. Long pants and sleeves, hiking boots, hat and drinking water are also recommended. During warm weather light color and light-weight clothing is suggested. Binoculars and field guides to plants and birds are worth bringing, as the wetlands attract many unusual bird species, plants and wildflowers.


From Nashville or Knoxville, TN

  • Travel east on Interstate 40 to Interstate 81 east to Bristol, Tennessee.

From Bristol, TN

  • Follow Highway 421 South through town and 18 miles south to Shady Valley.
  • Turn left at TN-133 and go 0.2 miles.
  • Turn left on Long Road.
  • About 100 yards on the left will be a small parking area, directly across the road from the Shady Valley School playground. Preserve is marked with a 3' x 5' sign.
  • Trail maps are available at the Conservancy's Shady Valley office, located at 10537 Highway 421.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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