The East Tennessee region is home to a diverse population of animal and plant life. The spring explodes in a kaleidoscope of Dogwood blossoms and flowers. The fall months are a rainbow of changing leaves. Numerous creatures, including groundhogs, foxes, raccoons, bats, snakes, skunks and occasionally even armadillo can be spotted. The mishmash of mountains, forests and plains likewise makes the Knoxville area a treat for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors.
Ijams Nature Center is a park and wildlife sanctuary in South Knoxville that does just that by “(increasing) knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the natural world by providing quality environmental educational programs and nature-related experiences for all people.”
The park was started by Harry and Alice Yoe Ijams, who built their home in 1910 on the property and spent the next 50 years developing their 20 acre plot of land into a wildlife sanctuary. Harry was an artist and birdwatcher, and Alice, a horticulturist who produced native plants in her greenhouse. Over the years the couple developed the natural habitats that can today still be found on the grounds of the nature center.
Ijams is at 2915 Island Home Ave. in the Island Home area of Knoxville, just a couple of miles from downtown. The nature center’s 100 acre grounds are free to the public and are open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk.
The Visitor Center, which includes the exhibit hall, gift shop and restrooms, is open Monday by appointment only, Tuesday–Saturday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. (March 1 through Nov. 30). The many exhibits featured at the Visitor Center include those dedicated to birds, trees, conservation and sustainability and the Ijams family themselves. visit www.ijams.org or call 865-577-4717 for more information about Ijams. Memberships are available.
Besides the Visitor Center, the expansive park offers miles of trails on which you can walk, enjoy the scenery, sneak a peek at Mead’s Quarry, a marble quarry once mined by the Ross Marble Company, or take a walk on the boardwalk beside the Tennessee River. Picnic tables and shelters are also available for use. Numerous species of plants, birds, insects and animals can be seen at the park, including black swallowtail caterpillars, celandine poppies, Carolina chickadees, green herons, eastern five-lined skinks, Jack-in-the-pulpits, red-tailed hawks and northern brown water snakes (don’t worry, they’re nonpoisonous).
Ijams takes its mission to educate seriously. The park hosts numerous educational and wildlife initiatives, both in the park itself and throughout the greater East Tennessee area. The park sponsors an interactive air quality education program, offers home school and public school education programs, and hosts numerous Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts events. The park also holds day camps, birthday parties, themed hikes and events like Bat Night and Bug Night. Click here
for more about Ijams many programs and events, which are ongoing throughout the year.
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