Another great Doggie Destination: Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge!

Merlin at Seven IslandsLast year, we visited Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge. This was my first visit, but my dogs had been several times with my husband and they love it! This 360-acre Knox County Park is situated on the Kelly Bend Peninsula in the French Broad River. It is about a 40 minute drive from Gatlinburg (depending on traffic!) – a perfect day trip for you and your dog!

We spent about 2 hours at the Refuge, walking the trails, letting the dogs swim in the river and enjoying the first signs of spring! We saw our first wildflowers of the year and heard a deafening chorus of frogs that was truly incredible! We brought our binoculars and saw all sorts of birds: bluebirds, sparrows, harriers, and a pair of red-tailed hawks. Spring was definitely on its way!

first sign of springThe Refuge features miles of trails stretching over rolling hills through fields and woodlands. We enjoyed stopping at a partially wooded pond where we heard gray tree frogs and pickerel frogs singing all around us. We also got a quick glimpse of a downy woodpecker in a tree across the water.

Several miles of trail follow right along the French Broad River – a great place for dogs to swim! Wesley and Merlin certainly had a great time in the water, retrieving sticks (logs in Wesley’s case)!

This beautiful natural landscape is a work-in-progress, as I learned from several interpretive panels scattered throughout the Refuge. There are ongoing efforts by the University of Tennessee, Ijams Nature Center, the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and other groups to restore this former farmland to a natural landscape dominated by native plants.

Barn by parking lotNestled in this natural setting are several historic buildings. These barns and farmhouses are evidence of the families that farmed this land long before it became a refuge. Learn more about the folklore of this area, once called Seclusion Bend.

From the parking lot there is also a paved road that extends over a mile into the Refuge. This road is great for walking or biking and takes you past all the historic houses and barns.

Wesley swimming in the French BroadWe had such a great time visiting Seven Islands! When we got home that night, our dogs were absolutely exhausted, which was wonderful!

To get to Seven Islands, take I-40 to Exit #402, Midway Road (headed West if coming from Gatlinburg). From here I will direct you to the Seven Islands’ website for the rest of the directions!

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