The damp path passes by patches of pennywort, bloodroot and trout lilies as the Clinch River flows alongside the trail.
A number of excited nature enthusiasts follow the trail, taking note of interesting trees and plants they pass along the way.
Learning the land
The River Bluff Trail is a 3.4-mile loop rich in native wildflowers and other flora. This makes it a perfect location to hold TVA’s annual guided Wildflower Walks.
These walks allow people from the community to enjoy a nice hike while learning about the vegetation of the region. The hikes are led by wildlife experts who have a passion for sharing about nature.
Tennessee State naturalist Randy Hedgepath was one of the experts leading a group along the trail, which he describes as wonderful.
“When I finally saw it, I was swept off of my feet,” he said.
Margaret Moore, a new resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, took advantage of the TVA Wildflower Walks to learn more about her new home.
“I wanted to better understand the environment around here,” Moore said.
Some participants are nearly naturalists themselves.
Ann Novak and Denise Acquista drove over two hours from Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, to participate in the hike at Norris Dam. From the start of the adventure, these two were able to point out various native plants and answer questions for other participants.
“I love watching the spring flowers grow,” Novak said.
Walking with the wildflowers
This year marked the 38th for the TVA Wildflower Walks, and they have proven to be extremely popular. They bring the community together and inform people about the significance of native plants.
TVA watershed representative Ember Anderson believes these hikes are both fun and educational.
“The Wildflower Walks are a perfect match for TVA’s mission by highlighting the Valley’s abundant and diverse biological communities while also hopefully instilling the importance of recreating in a responsible manner on public lands,” Anderson said.
The forests near Norris Dam are an amazing place to look for an abundance of flora. The presence of the buckeye and basswood trees are an indication that this forest is one of the most diverse in North America.
“The combination of the cool water of the Clinch River below Norris Dam, the rich soil and the northeastern aspect of the topography creates a perfect microclimate for spring wildflowers,” Anderson said.
The participants discovered more than a dozen native wildflowers, trees and other plants along the hike. Yellow, purple and white petals emerged from flowering species while fern started to unfurl.
As a red-shouldered hawk called through the diverse forest, the group of hikers finished up their walk.