Shady Valley has long been recognized as one of the Southern Appalachians' most ecologically important areas, a rare high-elevation remnant of the last Ice Age. Shady Valley was once covered with a network of sphagnum/cranberry peat bogs and white pine/hemlock forests, which supported a rich community of plant and animal life. As the human population has grown and drained most of the wetlands, these plants and animals have become increasingly rare and threatened.
Shady Valley supports at least 26 rare plants and animals. The valley’s wetlands are one of only two places in Tennessee where cranberries grow naturally. These wetlands are also home to the bog turtle, which is federally listed as a threatened species.
To protect the wetland plants and animals of this special place from extinction, The Nature Conservancy purchased its first nature preserve in Shady Valley in 1978, the Jess Jenkins Cranberry Bog. The Conservancy later transferred the preserve to East Tennessee State University for scientific research and educational purposes.
Today the Conservancy owns four preserves and 723 total acres in Shady Valley, including 468 acres of mountain land and approximately 255 acres on the valley floor. The Conservancy permits or leases land in Shady Valley for haying, cattle, and/or hunting—Practices which are consistent with standard protection strategies for the rare plants and animals in the area.
The second Saturday of October brings the Shady Valley Cranberry Festival. The festival begins Friday evening at 5 o’clock with the Bean Supper and Auction at the Shady Valley Elementary School. On Saturday morning there is a community pancake breakfast at the Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Hall. A parade through Shady Valley with floats, tractors, horses and marching bands follows at 10 a.m. Free cranberry bog tours run from noon till 4 p.m.
For more information, visit nature.org/Tennessee or call 423.739.2537.