Saturday, August 27, 2016

Land between the Lakes National Recreation Area, 8/22/2016

I have gotten into the habit of checking for nearby National Park Service sites in all of the cities we visit. The Land Between Lakes National Recreation Area was about 45 minutes away with many hiking trails (dog-friendly), so we put dinner in the crockpot, packed a picnic lunch and headed out. 

We obtained information about hiking trails in the area as well as some of the local attractions. First, though, we checked out the exhibits at the Visitor Center. There is also a planetarium here, although we did not stay for a show (we had our doggy, Sadie, with us and could not leave her in the car in this heat). 

There are extensive exhibits about the human, cultural, and geologic history of the area are on display. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers flow northward for about 100 miles parallel to each other. They empty into the Ohio River (that empties into the Mississippi River). The narrowest land "between the rivers" is only 1 mile wide. 

There is evidence of human habitation here for the last 10,000 years. River trade was an important part of the culture of all who lived here. 

One of the attractions here is the 700-acre Elk & Bison Prairie. Admission is $5/vehicle into the prairie where there is a 3.5 mile loop road. Sightings are most common in the early morning or very late afternoon (6 pm). The Visitor Center has an elk and bison on display as well as information about other wildlife in the area.

We decided to head north to the Woodlands Nature Station. Along the way we saw this and several other deer. 

There are nature exhibits inside; and, in The Backyard where wildlife native to the region can be seen. 

Check out this big (6') rat snake (non-venomous). 

There are coyote, opossum, groundhog, deer, and wild turkeys in natural habitats. We particularly enjoyed the birds of prey including a bald eagle, red tail hawk and various specials of owls. 

Wild turkeys and Red Tail Hawk

Great Horned Owl and Screech Owl

Barred Owl and Barn Owl

A turtle pond had three species of turtles, Alligator Snapping Turtle, Common Snapping Turtle, and this handsome River Cooter.

A prairie wildflower garden and lawn has many bird feeders including ones for hummingbirds and bat houses. This area is part of the Mississippi River Flyway and attracts over 240 bird species. I don't think I have seen so many hummingbirds in one place ever!

We started out on the Woodland Nature Trail (next to the Nature Station) that connected to the Honker Lake Trail for a 5-mile hike. The trail is named after the sounds that Canadian Geese make (frequent visitors here). 

There are several bridges over creeks along the well-marked trail. Our doggy, Sadie, had a blast exploring the woods along the trail. She is always happiest in the woods!

The trail emerges from the wooded forest to Lake Barclay, the Honker (earthen) Dam, and Honker Lake.

As we returned to the shaded part of the trail, we still had some great views of the lakes and several creeks. Also, we saw an osprey nest in a clearing (but, alas, we did not see any of its inhabitants. 

At the end of the trail, near the Nature Station, is an observation deck that looks out over a large meadow....great for wildlife viewing.

These gourds provide homes for a community of purple martins. Today, almost all of these birds live in human-provided shelters (similar to these). 

We saw several skunks in the area near the Nature Station. They did not seem too bothered by us, but, of course, we kept Sadie in the car! They were so busy foraging in the grass I never did get a good shot of their faces.

Stopping along the road at a pond we saw this beautiful, large blue heron. I also saw an eagle swoop near the water, but only caught this picture of him in flight in the distance.

Before leaving the recreation area we drove through the Elk & Bison Prairie, but only saw some wild turkeys and deer (it was only about 3:30 pm so we knew the elk and bison were probably resting in the shaded areas of the forest). 

While we did not see any bison, we did see plenty of their scat!

There is another area at Land Between the Lakes called The Homeplace, an 1850s working farm located in the southern portion of the National Recreation Area (in Tennessee). It was very hot/humid and we were tired from our hike, so we headed back to Paducah. 

With 170,000 acres of forests and open lands, there are 300 miles of natural shoreline, 200 miles of paved roads, and 500 miles of trails at Land Between the Lakes. Fishing, hunting, camping, and off-highway vehicle are all popular activities here. We were happy to find a good dog-friendly area for hiking. 

For additional information about the recreation area and the events held here year-round, check out their website at

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