Duck River Natural Area-Cheeks Bend Bluffs Trail

In the 1960s, the Tennessee Valley Authority began purchasing land (and sometimes took it, using its eminent domain power) for a lake on the Duck River east of Columbia, Tennessee. Its justification was to dam the river to control flooding. Just a few blocks from downtown Columbia, the area known as Riverside frequently flooded during my childhood. My elementary school was among the buildings that filled with water during the heavy spring rains.

My grandfather took me to the dam site many times to watch it being built. In 1977, with construction on the dam nearly complete, federal courts ordered the project stopped under the Endangered Species Act. The project was held up in legal limbo for about 20 years until TVA had either exhausted its legal challenges or lost its desire to fight. The new Columbia dam project was dead.

In 2002, TVA turned the land it had purchased for the lake over to the state of Tennessee. It is now managed as Yanahli Wildlife Management Area. Within the WMA, the state has designated 6 natural areas, known collectively as the Duck River State Natural Area Complex.

Click the links for more information on the history and biology of the Yanahli WMA. A map of the WMA can be found HERE.

My friend Mike joined me for this excursion.

Distance: approx. 2 miles round trip
Time: 1 hour, with plenty of lolly gagging and yapping
Elevation change: maybe 10 feet
Trail
type: mostly dirt and rock.
Temperature: warmer, around 45 degrees
Significant features: Nice water views along the bluffs during this time. The trees will block some of these views once the leaves come out again.

The trail system is very new and other than the mixed use trails (horses, mountain biking and hiking) on the WMA, Cheeks Bend is the only trail designated for hikers. Maps can be found HERE and HERE. Wish I had found these before I left today.

Pictures can be found HERE.

Posted:February 11th, 2007

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