Rockpile Trail Wildflower Hike, TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation
Please note: This meets at the Nature Trails Parking Lot, not at the Dam!
Led by Charles Rose.
Sponsored by Fresh Air Family and Shoals Environmental Alliance.
This outing is free to the public, but you should register.
Registering is easy; all we need is:
1. Your name.
2. The number of people in your party.
3. A contact phone number, preferably a cell phone.
Meet: 1:00pm at the Nature Trails parking lot at the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation.
We will leave some cars here and then travel the short distance to the Wilson Dam visitors center parking lot to start our hike.
We will hike one-way on the historic Rockpile Trail from Wilson Dam back to the Nature Trails Parking Lot.
Participants will have several choices in distance, which may require dropping cars off at various spots on the Reservation. The shortest route choice is app. 2 1/2 miles.
Description: Moderately-rigorous, with uphills and downhills, several steep grades.
Bring snacks and water. Wear hiking boots or other sturdy footwear.
The emphasis will be on early spring wildflowers and local history as we traverse the Rockpile Trail from Wilson Dam downstream to Southport, once the site of a thriving steamboat port. Wildflowers of interest will include Red Buckeye, Wild Blue Phlox, Rue Anemone, Jacob;s Ladder, Jack-in-the-Puylpit, False Rue Anemone, Cut-leaf Toothwort, Yellow Woodlands Violet and many more
Our starting point, the Visitors Center parking lot, is also Site #6 on the North Alabama Birding Trail. Unfortunately, the visitor Center itself has been closed due to Homeland Security concerns. From this spot, high up on a bluff, many seagulls and other shorebirds are in view. There is also a fine panoramic view of historic Wilson Dam, which is listed in the National Register as a National Historic Landmark.
The Rockpile Trail features many scenic vistas of the Tennessee River (Pickwick Lake).
Eagles, Great Blue Heron and Osprey are regularly spotted in the vicinity of the TVA Rockpile, so bring your binoculars.
As we hike westward from the dam, we will pass several historic spots, including the foundations of the old Wilson Steam Plant (once the largest facility of its kind in the world), the infamous TVA “Slag Pile” and the stone CCC Picnic Pavilion, built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Stone steps, bridge foundations, check dams, and other erosion abatements, all built in the 1930’s by the CCC, will also be of interest.
We will also cross Pond Creek, which originally ended in a sinkhole south of the TVA Reservation. In the 1930’s it was diverted so that it would flow into the Tennessee River, just a few yards below our crossing.
After resting at the historic CCC Picnic Pavilion on a bluff overlooking the river, we will continue on into the Small Wild Area, also known as the First Quarters Ravine, chock-full of blooming spring wildflowers.
The Rockpile Trail concludes at Southport, once the site of a thriving riverboat port in the 1800’s.
On our return, we will walk through two Civil War earthworks, both constructed by General John Bell Hood’s army while they were encamped here for three weeks, waiting to cross the swollen Tennessee River while en route to fight the battle of Franklin.
Next, we will briefly visit the Hall Memorial Native Plant Garden, maintained by volunteers, which was once the site of the historic First Quarters, originally built as officers’ quarters while Wilson Dam was being constructed during World War I.
We’ll may also take a quick look at The Animal House (eligible for the National Register of Historic Places), once a laboratory where scientists studied mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria.
Google Map of TVA Nature Trails Parking Lot
Directions: The Nature Trails parking lot is just off Reservation Road on TVA’s Muscle Shoals Reservation.
From Wilson Dam: Go south on Reservation Road for app. 2.5 miles. At the “Nature Trails” sign, turn right into the parking lot.
From Hatch Blvd. (US-43) in Sheffield: Turn at the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation sign (¼ mile north of the Radisson Hotel) and go app. 1.5 miles. At the “Nature Trails” sign, turn left into the parking lot.
From Birmingham: Take I-65 N for app. 50 miles to Cullman. Take the AL-157 exit (Exit 310). At the end of the ramp, turn left onto AL-157 N (toward Moulton). Continue on AL-157 for app. 55 miles, passing through Moulton on the way. Merging with AL-20 W (alt US-72 W), continue for another 4.3 miles into Muscle Shoals, AL. Turn right onto US-43 N. Go 4.5 miles. Soon after passing theRadisson Hotel (on the left), turn right onto the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation. (This is Reservation Road.) Go 1.5 miles and turn left at the “Nature Trails” sign into the parking lot.
From Huntsville: Take I-565 W. I-565 will become AL-20 W. Continue on AL-20 W as it crosses the Tennessee River into Decatur. On the other side of the bridge, AL-20 immediately turns right at the light. Continue app. 40 miles more on AL-20 W to Muscle Shoals, AL. Turn right on US-43 N.
Continue on US-43 N for app. 4.5 miles. Soon after passing the Radisson Hotel (on the left), turn right onto the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation. (This is Reservation Road.) Go 1.5 miles and turn left at the “Nature Trails” sign into the parking lot.