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Explore Ijams Nature Center this Spring

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Ijams Nature CenterNestled on the banks of the Tennessee River, just minutes from downtown Knoxville, Ijams Nature Center is a 275-acre wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center. While Ijams is traditionally known for its signature nature programs, it has new and exciting recreational opportunities that are taking center stage this spring.

The recently opened Ross Marble Natural Area has added almost five miles of multi-use trails for hikers and mountain bikers, and connections to other South Knoxville parks, such as the nearby William Hastie Natural Area, are in the works.

Through efforts from the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, new trails weave through mature forests, a rugged gorge, boulder fields and the former Ross Marble Quarry site. A man-made rock bridge, built in the 1920s to allow quarry workers to cross the quarry pit, affords magnificent views of the quarry which look akin to a Mayan temple with its stepped walls where pink Tennessee marble was once extracted. A short rocky trail leads down to the “Keyhole” – an inviting stone entranceway leading to the lower quarry. Once through the hole, the sound of a bubbling subterranean stream provides a comforting juxtaposition to the silent but imposing cliffs. Such sights challenge the traditional view of Ijams.

If you don’t own a mountain bike, Ijams can rent you one during regular weekend opening hours. If you fancy canoeing the 25-acre lake at Mead’s Quarry Lake, Ijams can rent a canoe as well. Ijams will offer two and four hour rentals on equipment with discounts to Ijams members.

On Saturday, April 16, Ijams will become a Mecca for recreation seekers. The Urban Wilderness Challenge, organized by Legacy Parks, offers up two races starting and finishing at Ijams: The Adventure Race is a challenging course for teams of three who will bike, run, paddle, swim, orienteer along a unique course in and around downtown Knoxville, while the Citizen’s Race takes teams through undiscovered trails and forests on foot, bike and by water on a less-technical route. Other outdoor-themed activities for spectators will be offered at Ijams throughout the day.

Stalk Your Quarry, a 6.5-mile trail race organized by the Knoxville Track Club on Sunday, May 15, supports the view that Ijams’ trails are also a big hit with the local running community.

For conventional naturalists, Ijams’ spring plant sale on Saturday, April 30, from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm is another date not to miss. The sale is an annual fundraiser and features Knoxville’s finest nurseries and garden crafters. Ijams’ members receive 10% off all purchases.

Becoming an Ijams member not only supports operations but provides a wealth of member benefits including many free programs and a discount in the Ijams gift shop. Ijams boasts two authors on staff and offers a nice range of local books.

Stephen Lyn Bales’ Natural Histories is an eclectic mix of local history and natural history that informs and delights in equal measure, while his latest, Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, documents the rediscovery of the enigmatic bird in the 1930s. Both books showcase Bales as one of Knoxville’s most talented writers. Ijams’ Executive Director, Paul James, has recently produced Ijams Nature Center as part of the Images of America series, as well as two booklets, H.P. Ijams and the Bird Sanctuary, a fascinating collection of essays, articles, vintage photos and illustrations by the father of Knoxville ornithology, and Ijams Through the Keyhole, a celebration of the new Ross Marble Natural Area and a look back at Ijams over the years.

Ijams has it all this spring. Deciding whether to lace up your hiking boots or running shoes, put on your biking helmet, or load up the car with native plants may be your hardest task. And even on a rainy day, you can even relax in your favorite armchair and enjoy some tales of East Tennessee natural history.

For more information, visit www.ijams.org.

Photo credit:
Appalachian Mountain Bike Club

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East Tennessee's Mountain Views

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