Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area
Prentice Cooper State Forest is located in southeastern Tennessee, in Marion County. The forest is approximately 10 miles west of Chattanooga. It is situated on the scenic Tennessee River Gorge. Approximately 6,939 acres are designated as unregulated scenic zones that protect this view shed and other scenic areas of the forest. Hicks Gap Natural Area (350 acres) also occurs in the forest and was developed to protect the federally endangered Large-flowered Skullcap. The forest also includes several in-holdings owned by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and 3 cemeteries. Management activities of the forest focus primarily on sustainable timber management, forest management demonstration and wildlife habitat improvement while maintaining recreational opportunities for the public. There are 35 miles of hiking trails, including the south end of the Cumberland Trail State Park. There also are two designated camping areas. Hunting has been a traditional use of the forest. Other recreational activities include OHV use in designated areas, rock climbing, hiking, Mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, and camping.
Woodland birding can be excellent in spring and fall migration with large numbers of birds passing through Tennessee. Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager and other forest birds are commonly found in summer.
Barred owls can be heard more often than seen.
From Chattanooga, take Hwy 27 to Signal Mountain exit. Turn right onto Signal Mountain Rd. Turn left onto Hwy 27 (Suck Creek Rd.) Do not go up the mountain on Hwy 127. Continue on Hwy 27 for approximately 8 miles (into Marion County). Watch for sign of your left that says Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area. Turn left at that sign. Bear to left again at junction, and turn left at next road. Small sign says Prentice Cooper WMA. Go about one mile to check-in station on your left. Park at check-in station.
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing
Bird migration occurs in spring and fall.
Best Time for Viewing
Early mornings are great for bird watching during migration.