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TNWR sanctuary areas close for winter

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BIRD WATCHING – Winter is a great time to view eagles and other birds at various TNWR sites.

On Nov. 15 some areas of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) and all of Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge were seasonally closed to the public for the winter. 

These areas will be closed through March 15 primarily to minimize disturbance to wintering waterfowl and nesting bald eagles. However, for great views of the lake, or for waterfowl and wildlife viewing opportunities, there are still some areas open to daylight visitation during the winter months. 

The TNWR Visitor Center, located at 1371 Wildlife Dr. in Springville, is open M-F from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and entry is free. There also are many observation areas on the refuge in which to view and photograph wildlife.

On the Big Sandy Unit of TNWR, the main road running through the Big Sandy peninsula remains open. Visitors at this location have year-round access to the handicapped accessible Bennett’s Creek observation deck, which is a great place to see bald eagles, as well as views of Bennett’s Creeks embayment and two managed impoundments. 

The 1.1-mile Chickasaw National Recreation Trail is a great place to stroll through the woods on a sunny winter day. This trail offers an easy pace as well as some history of the people who once lived on the peninsula. The tip of the peninsula, called Pace Point, is considered a very popular winter birding location offering excellent views of migratory birds such as waterfowl, loons, gulls, and terns. 

At the Britton Ford/Sulphur Wells area the V.L. Childs Observation Deck offers an outstanding view of refuge waters, shorelines, and woodlands. The deck is handicap accessible complete with two spotting scopes that provide opportunities for viewing waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, and native wildlife. Please note, the Britton Ford and the Discovery Nature Trails in this area will be closed until March 15.

Duck River Bottoms is always an exciting place to visit in the wintertime. The main road is open year-round offering many chances to connect with nature. Just listening to thousands of ducks resting and feeding in the surrounding area is worth the drive to this area. The area also offers views of bald eagles, white pelicans, herons, egrets, and many species of hawks. 

Pintail Point observation deck and photography blind is open year-round along Haul Road. Visitors at this location are greeted with a very short walk through the woods ending with a boardwalk and deck/blind that overlooks one of the managed impoundments. Possible wildlife to view at this location are woodpeckers, puddle ducks, herons, egrets, hawks, and eagles.

Starting this winter, the Duck River remainder portion of the refuge, including the popular Tie Yards area, will remain open. The Morgan Creek and Nix Landing Boat Ramps also remain open, although the low lake levels make these ramps only useable by smaller crafts.

The entire Busseltown Unit will be closed, but visitors to this unit may observe wildlife from the information kiosk area.

For more information on TNWR, call 731-642-2091 or visit http://www.fws.gov/refuge/tennessee. or https://www.facebook.com/tennesseenwr. 

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