Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Radnor Lake State Natural Area

One of the real gems in our city is Radnor Lake State Natural Area. Located on the south side of town among the bustling areas of Brentwood, Oak Hills, and Green Hills, this 750 acre park is Tennessee’s first State Natural Area.

The lake was impounded in 1914 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to provide a source of water for its steam engines.  Radnor Yards was located in the area as well at that time and the lake was to provide water for the livestock.  The railroad executives also saw it as a private hunting and fishing preserve.  What no one planned on were the birds that looked down from their migratory paths and saw a lake.  In less than ten years, the area was off limits to hunters and fishermen and became a wildlife sanctuary.

The area remained virtually untouched and unnoticed until the early 1960s when the land was purchased for a housing development.  That idea was quickly shot down by concerned local citizens.  In the early 1970s funds were raised to purchase the property and the state’s first natural area was born.

Today, Radnor is used primarily by hikers, birders, photographers, and naturalists.  Being a natural area, there are no bikes, pets, or jogging allowed on the trails.  There’s also no picnicking allowed nor off trail hiking.  That’s not to say it’s a wilderness area.  Certainly not.  There are plenty of wooden steps, bridges, and benches along the trails to make hiking and walking a pleasant experience.

Up until about 15 years ago, Otter Creek Road ran through the park.  The shoulders of the road were badly deteriorated and the road was closed to motorized traffic.  Although the road is only about a mile and a half long, it’s still a favorite place for bicyclists, dog walkers, and young mothers with strollers.  Joggers are often seen running the road, as well.

There are several options for hikes here.  For our hike today we chose to park at the East parking lot and walked the access trail to the Lake Trail.  By walking a short distance along the road we were then able to connect to the South Lake trail.  After about a mile on the South Lake Trail we did another short section of road, crossed the gravel walkway across the dam which put us back on the other end of the Lake Trail.  Because a bathroom break is always a good choice, we took the Spillway trail to the Nature Center.
The Nature Center

Unfortunately for us, the restrooms were out of order.  Fortunately for us, it was just outside the Nature Center were we saw the beautiful barred owl.  I’d heard there was an owl living here, but I’d never been lucky enough to see him.  Today he perched on the limb and posed for photos until I was tired and walked away.  Then he posed for the next photographer.  Wow, what a treat.

Since the restrooms were closed, we had to hurry right along back to the East parking lot.  For the return trip we walked along the Lake Trail then took the Ganier Ridge trail up and over the hill back to the access trail and the parking lot for a 4.6 mile loop hike.  Thankfully, those restrooms were open.
View of the lake from South Lake Trail

Gene had some birthday money burning a hole in his pocket, so after our hike we stopped in at REI.  We have friends who work at REI and we got to see two of them today.  It was fun talking to Missing Link.  He has just completed a section hike of the Appalachian Trail.  He was out for a few weeks doing the Whites in New Hampshire and the entire length of the trail in Maine.  Also had a good conversation with my friend, Sue.  Like me, she’s trying to hike all the trails in the Smokies.  It was fun catching up on what she’s done and how much we each are still lacking.

That’s been our day.  Hope yours was as much fun.

Thanks for tagging along.


  1. nice picture of the owl, Judy!..glad you made it to a bathroom eventually..hope Gene had fun spending his birthday money!!

  2. I really want to make a trip back to Nashville and hike some trails both here and at Percy Warner. Hope I can find someone to hike with me!!

  3. Great pics of Radnor Lake area, that is on of our favorites in Nashville...such a beautiful area. That is only about 4 miles from my old stomping grounds.
    Incredible pic of the owl, glad you got it!

  4. Gene and Judi,
    Thanks for following my blog! I always feel lucky when I can see an owl in the daytime. :)