Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge
ADA Accessibility Notes
The paved road from the parking lot to the river is mostly level, with a fairly short, gradual drop in elevation near the halfway point, but possibly just a bit too steep for people in wheelchairs.
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is a 360 acre Knox County park about 8.5 miles east of Knoxville. The refuge, on former farmland, includes the Kelly Bend peninsula along the French Broad River. Habitats include wooded hills, an intermittent stream, and several fields being restored to native warm-season grasses. A paved road extends over a mile into the property creating a prime birding route. Upon arriving at the parking area, start listening for bird song. The most popular, and effective, route for birding here is simply to walk along the paved road from the parking lot towards the river. This road is mostly level, with a fairly short, gradual drop in elevation near the halfway point. (possibly just a bit too steep for people in wheelchairs).
During the breeding season, nesting birds are quite a highlight here. Easily heard singing well into the summer are Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. Orchard Orioles nest here too, but leave a bit earlier than the others. Purple Martins nest in a box and gourds erected by the Knoxville Chapter of TOS and Tree Swallows are also present. In winter, hundreds of sparrows can be found, especially Field, Savannah, Song, Swamp, White-throated and White-crowned, with little effort. It is possibly the most reliable Knox County location to find White-crowned Sparrows. A Northern Harrier regularly cruises the hilly fields, and Short-eared Owls could occur as the grass fields become established.
Loggerhead Shrike is occasionally seen in the refuge.
From I-40, take Exit 402 - Midway Rd. Turn south onto Midway Rd. This is a right turn if coming from Knoxville, left if coming from points east. Continue on Midway for 2 miles where you will turn left onto Maples Rd. (note: at the one mile point, Midway bears left). Watch for the green refuge signs. At the end of Maples (~ 1 mile), turn right onto Kodak Rd. After about a quarter mile, turn left onto Kelly Lane, which takes you right to the parking area. Just before the parking lot is a left turn to a boat launch area. This is also a part of the refuge, but the area is rarely birded.
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing
Spring and summer are the best times to see breeding birds, but many resident and wintering species can also be seen in fall and winter.
Best Time for Viewing
Mornings provide the best opportunity to view breeding songbirds.