Saturday, September 23, 2023 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT
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Star Walk Trail 

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Hike Manager 
Wild Ones - Tennessee Valley Chapter 

Wild Ones Members Only Hike
Harrison Bay State Park with Stephan Eselgroth

Hike Details: Join Wild Ones members with hike leader, Stephan Eselgroth, MD, as we explore a prairie habitat at the star trail and the upland woods and water edge habitat of the island trail in Harrison Bay State Park. Dr. Eselgroth has over 20 years of natural and sustainable habitat gardening experience, RainSmart Yard and NWF certifications at his home, and is an active volunteer and hikes manager for our Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones.

Harrison Bay State Park, which was the first Tennessee state park formed in 1937, has a wonderful grasslands walking trail. This is just one example of restoration efforts to return grassland communities to our state parks. Located at the entrance to the park, it is an easy nature walk along a mostly flat prairie with a loop trail on crushed limestone and multiple trail cuts into the heart of the grassland. Since managing with controlled burns to knock back sweetgum trees, invasive exotics and native shrubs/vines/brambles, a multitude of pollinators and their required host and nectar species have thrived here. The area supports post oak, persimmon, winged elm, Virgina pine and black gum for sparse tree cover. 

As for grassland, there is an abundance of little, split beard and bushy bluestems, purple love grass, purpletop tridens, and other grass species. We’ll view blooms of several species of goldenrod (Solidago sp.), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) and purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). There is an impressive display of downy lobelia (Lobelia puberula), thoroughworts (Eupatorium serotinum, E. hyssopifolium, E. torreyianum and E. perfoliatum.). The many slender mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) and a population of beeblossoms (Oenothera gaura or O. lindheimeri), and other summer species will be past the typical bloom time. Of note, even standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) has had an isolated report here. 

Many additional interesting species will be seen as well. At several times of the year, “star parties” are held if you come back at dark with members of the Barnard Astronomical Society. They have created a self-guided walk with education about the night sky. You can read about it at kiosks throughout the loop.

We will visit the nearby island trail and cross the sandbar to view a serene shady woodland with views of the lake.  Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), heavy with fruit, should be abundant and a mix of other mesic to dry woodland aster and goldenrod species can be found thriving amongst the white oak (Quercus alba), dogwood (Cornus florida) and maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium).

Rating:  Easy.  Note that the sandbar crossing is often just moist to dry, but sometimes inundated with 1 foot of water, but easy to cross.  If necessary, we'll remove shoes to cross, then dry off to continue.

Distance:  1 mile, loop and spurs at the grassland, 1 mile at the Island trail, approximately 3 hours total for exploration

Start Time:  9:00 p.m. Eastern time  

Location:  Harrison Bay State Park, Harrison, TN.  Exact location to be provided upon sign up.

Additional Information:  

Distancing precautions required. Bring snack/water, insect repellent, sunscreen, appropriate shoes for easy trail and/or Teva or similar footwear that can dry quickly.  Lunch will be on your own after hiking.  No pets at any of our Wild Ones hikes please. 

Limit:  15 participants

This program is free and open to Tennessee Valley Chapter Wild Ones members, including family.  Please make sure your membership is up to date.

Related helpful links:

iNaturalist Harrison Bay