Ijams Nature Center
Ijams Nature Center is located just minutes from downtown Knoxville, yet it feels like it is much farther away as you are hiking through the forest. Ijams is a 175-acre wildlife sanctuary encompassing a variety of natural habitats: forests, meadows, creeks and streams, caves, and an extensive boardwalk on the bank of the Tennessee River. The naturally-restored Mead's Quarry site features a 25-acre lake, rocky bluffs, and protected caves. In all, Ijams' natural areas include 5-miles of trails as well as the Will Skelton Greenway which intersects park boundaries. Ijams also has an environmental learning center with an exhibit hall that contains live native fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Ijams seeks to increase knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the natural world by providing quality environmental educational programs and nature-related experiences.
Ijams Nature Center is home to a great diversity of native flora and fauna and is one of the best places in the Knoxville area to find mixed flocks of migrating songbirds in the spring and fall. Migrating flocks often concentrate around the main parking lot by the Visitor Center and along the trails by the river. The Discovery Trail is a great place to find mixed flocks and can often produce such highlights as Blue-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Wilson's Warbler. Ijams is home to many breeding birds as well. Summer resident highlights include: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Some species that can only be found at Ijams in the winter include several species of wintering ducks, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, White-throated and Swamp Sparrows, Purple Finch, and during some years, Pine Siskins. Ijams is also home to several permanent residents including Eastern Screech Owls and Barred Owls, which can be seen during the day right around the Visitor Center. Bald Eagles and Osprey can often be seen flying and hunting along the river. Other wildlife that can be seen at Ijams includes Snapping Turtles, Red-eared Sliders, Box Turtles, several species of salamanders including Cave Salamanders, Black Rat Snakes, Northern Water Snakes, and Plain-bellied Water Snakes.
River Otters and several species of bats occur at Ijams, but are more challenging to see.
From I-40, take James White Pkwy Exit (388A) and stay to the left to continue on James White Parkway. Cross over the TN River and take the Sevier Ave./Hillwood Dr. Exit. Turn Left onto Sevier Ave. (turns into Hillwood Dr.). Turn Right onto Island Home Ave. (at bottom of hill). Ijams is approximately 1 mile on the left.
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing
Spring and fall are the windows of opportunity for viewing migrating birds. Warm seasons are the best times for viewing reptiles and amphibians.
Best Time for Viewing
Early mornings are the best time to view migrating or breeding birds.