Nickajack Dam (river mile 424.7) on the Tennessee River was completed in 1967 and replaced the aged Hales Bar Dam that had been built by private interests in 1913. Most of the shoreline is undeveloped. The site is the beginning of the Tennessee River Gorge that is dominated by upland hardwoods mixed with Virginia Pines. Ridges rise to 1,200' with impressive limestone cliffs topped with Eastern Red Cedars with riparian woodlands in lower elevations. The water area is the main focus for this site and the river here has some large eddies and bays with substantial milfoil. Marion County Park, at river mile 429.5, is mostly deforested. Note: The area includes Nickajack Cave that serves as a pup site for thousands of gray bats, a Federally Endangered Species, between late April and early October. Nickajack Cave and nearby Gray Cliff are the earliest reported Cliff Swallow nest sites in eastern Tennessee. Cliff Swallows still nest at Nickajack Cave. Bird watching, boating, and fishing are popular activities at many public access locations around the lake. Lower Sequatchie Management Unit: This site is located along the river and home to great bird watching opportunities. Though the trail system is not well-defined, it offers good parking, and restrooms. We recommend this site especially for birding and those interested in river/riparian areas.
Waterfowl, including geese and ducks, are abundant in winter. American Coots can be found in the thousands, with daily counts over 18,000 individuals. Ring-billed Gulls can be abundant with over one thousand observed at times in winter. Bald Eagles are found here in moderate numbers in winter with some nesting pairs staying through late winter and into spring and summer.
Common Loons may occur among the coots and gulls during the winter.
From Chattanooga: Take I-24 toward Nashville and exit number 158. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp onto TVA Access Road. This road will lead you to the Dam, follow the signs leading to "River Recreation" and a large parking area.
From Nashville: Take I-24 toward Chattanooga and exit number 158. Turn right at the end of the exit ramp onto TVA Access Road. This road will lead you to the Dam, follow the signs leading to "River Recreation" and a large parking area.
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing
Winter is the best season for viewing waterfowl and eagles.
Best Time for Viewing
Early mornings are best times for watching birds.