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River Bluff Small Wild Area

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Just south of Norris Dam are several scenic trails that are a nature wonderland for wildflower enthusiasts and birdwatchers. The River Bluff Trail is across the dam from the Visitor's Center and encompasses the western riverfront while the Songbird Trail wanders along the eastern edge of the Clinch River, sharing the same parking area for the Norris Watershed Trails.

trail dogsonleash hikingrunning wildflowerswildlifeviewing

River Bluff Trails: On the western side of the Clinch River, below the dam, the River Bluff Trail loops a 3.2 mile path through old growth hardwood. The trail follows the riverbank below moist limestone bluffs before climbing away from the river and returning along the ridgetop. The trail is easy but there are some steep grades. The trail is marked with white blazes and is in excellent condition. Going counterclockwise at the loop (less than a quarter mile from the trailhead) will have you finishing the hike along the river, thus saving the best for last. Bear right at this intersection and proceed up the hill. Half of the River Bluff Trail follows the ridgeline overlooking the Clinch River, while the other half stays low along the river bank.

From early March to mid-May, a spectacular wildflower display features over 50 species of colorful varieties including large beds of trout lilies, bloodroot, celandine poppies, Dutchman's breeches, dwarf crested iris, columbine, and several species of trilliums. In addition to wildflowers there are plenty of wildlife to enjoy. Deer and birds are plentiful and river otter can be seen frolicking in the shallow waters. Birdwatchers may catch glimpses of Pileated Woodpeckers, Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Wood Thrushes, Yellow-throated, Pine Black-and-White, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers. Many spring and fall migrants may also be seen along the trail.

Songbird Loop: Across from the Lenoir Museum, the 2.3-mile crushed gravel Songbird Loop makes its way towards the dam by contouring the river. The Edge Path is a 0.4 mile section of this flat and easy trail and offers a paved, wheelchair accessible path along the river bank along with benches to take a rest. As the name suggests, this is a spot frequented by bird watchers. During the spring and summer, look for nesting Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Peewees, Great-Crested Flycatchers, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Gray Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-throated Warblers, and Orchard Orioles along the trails. The trail is also a good place to observe spring and fall migrants. During the winter, watch for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Winter Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows. Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Cardinals, and Song Sparrows are present year-round. Eastern Screech-Owls, Barred Owls, and Great Horned Owls are also permanent residents in this area. Along with your binoculars, you might want to bring a fishing rod, as this area is a popular spot for anglers. Printable Map

River Bluff Trail Map

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