Bells Bend


Bells Bend Outdoor Center is an 808-acre pastoral park bordered by the Cumberland River on the west side of Nashville. It is a mix of open fields, fencerows, and scattered hardwood forests. It is one of few easily accessible sites for Henslow's Sparrows in Tennessee. It supports a large number of other nesting grassland and brushland birds including Northern Bobwhite, Willow Flycatcher, Dickcissel, and Blue Grosbeak.

Bells Bend Park is a recent addition to the Nashville/Davidson County Metro Parks system and was opened to the public in 2007. It features a nature center and several miles of hiking trails and old farm roads. The park offers a three-fold experience: cultivating knowledge of the natural world, developing outdoor recreation skills, and understanding cultural impacts upon the land.

Henslow's Sparrow Bells Bend Fields

Henslow's Sparrow and Bells Bend fields in early fall. Photos by Ed Schneider (left) and Sandy Bivens (right).

Bells Bend is located on the west side of Nashville. From west-bound I-40 , take exit 204B for TN 155 - White Bridge Pike/Robertson Avenue. Turn right at the fork and follow signs for TN 155 N which becomes Briley Parkway. From east-gound I-40, take exit 204 for TN 155 - White Bridge Pike/Robertson Avenue. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto TN 155 N which becomes Briley Parkway. From I-24, take exit 43 onto Briley Parkway west.

Continue on Briley Parkway to the Highway 12/Ashland City exit and take Highway 12 west towards Ashland City. After 2.7 miles, turn left (south) unto Old Hickory Boulevard. Go 4 miles to the park entrances on the right. Take the second park entrance on the right to get to the nature center. The park is open seven days a week. The nature center is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and offers a variety of programs throughout the year.

For a Google map and directions to the nature center, enter either your full starting address including town and state OR your zip code:

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To view Henslow’s Sparrow, Dickcissel, Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, and Willow Flycatcher in the spring, park at the outdoor center (see Directions above). Walk the trail past the center to the fields behind the building. The tall wildflower stems provide perches for sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The fencerows often have Gray Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Wood Pewee, American Woodcock, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Orchard Orioles.

After passing the first major fields, continue on the loop trail to the stretch along the bank of the Cumberland River. Watch for Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, and in spring and summer, Prothonotary Warbler. In recent winters, a small flock of the experimental eastern population of Whooping Cranes has wintered in the Bells Bend region; watch for these birds flying along the river. During the fall and winter, search the fields and fencerows for a variety of sparrows and watch for Northern Harriers and other raptors. Northern Bobwhite and Eastern Wild Turkeys are present year-round and often seen along the mowed trails and old farm roads. Spring and fall migrant songbirds use the fencerows and patches of hardwood forest.

Bells Bend Outdoor Center Eastern Meadowlark

The outdoor center and an Eastern Meadowlark. Photos by Deb Beazley (left) and Ed Schneider (right).

In addition to birds, lots of other wildlife is present, including deer, coyotes, and raccoons. The fields support a variety of summer and fall wildflowers. Trees and shrubs in the fencerows and fields include buttonbush, rough-leaf dogwood, fragrant sumac, osage orange, and honey locust. Trees in the forested areas include several species of oak and hickory, yellow buckeye, and green ash. In addition to birding and observing other wildlife and wildflowers, a long, interesting cultural history including Paleo hunters, Civil War, and historic farming makes a visit to Bells Bend well worth the trip.


Click here for a checklist of Bells Bend birds.

For additional information, visit the Metro Parks website. Click here for information on the development of Bells Bend park.

For the Beaman Park to Bells Bend Corridor Group, visit

Other Metro Parks providing excellent birding opportunities include Beaman Park and Shelby Park.

Contact Bells Bend park at 4187 Old Hickory Boulevard, Nashville, Tennessee 37218. Phone (615) 862-4187.

Tennessee Watchable Wildlife account.

DeLorme Tennessee Atlas & Gazetteer page 53, grid C-4.

Hiking TrailsVisitor CenterRestrooms

Contributed by LinnAnn Welch, January 2010.

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