Jefferson City / Lower Cherokee Lake

Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area
Cherokee Dam


Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area is a wetlands complex in northwest Jefferson City. It contains water year-round. Wood Ducks, herons, and egrets are present during the summer and dabbling ducks and coots are present fall through spring.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Mossy Creek Mallards

Black-crowned Night Heron (left) and Mallards (right) at Mossy Creek. Photos by Harold Howell (left) and Charles P. Nicholson (right).


Mossy Creek
From I-40, take exit 417 (Jefferson City / TN 92) and follow TN 92 to the north.  After 7 miles, turn left (west) at the intersection onto US 11E.  After 1.4 miles, turn right (east) at the stop light onto TN 92 / Old Andrew Johnson Highway.  Continue for 1.3 miles and shortly after crossing railroad tracts, angle left onto Lakeview Avenue.  At the next intersection, turn right (north) onto Bethel Church Road and then left (west) onto West Cherokee Drive.  Go about 0.2 miles to the paved, marked parking lot on the right (coordinates 36.12851 N, -83.50253 W).

An alternative route from Knoxville and farther west is to exit I-40 at Exit 394 (US 11E / Asheville Highway).  Take US 11E / Asheville Highway eastward for 6 miles and bear left, staying on US 11E, at the split of US 11E, US 70, and US 25W.  After 14 miles, turn left at the traffic light onto TN 92 / Old Andrew Johnson Highway.  Continue for 1.3 miles and shortly after crossing railroad tracts, angle left onto Lakeview Avenue.  At the next intersection, turn right (north) onto Bethel Church Road and then left (west) onto West Cherokee Drive.  Go about 0.2 miles to the paved, marked parking lot on the right.

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

Google map opens in a new window

Cherokee Dam
Follow the directions above to the intersection of US 11E and TN 92 / Old Andrew Johnson Highway.  Take TN 92 towards the northeast, following the signs for TVA Cherokee Dam.  After 4.7 miles, turn right onto TVA Parkway to access the south side of the dam and visitor facilities (coordinates 36.15996 N, -83.50800 W).

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

Google map opens in a new window

Observation Blind

Mossy Creek Wetland

Observation blind and wetland area at Mossy Creek. Photos by Charles P. Nicholson.


From the parking lot on West Cherokee Drive, walk the trails to the left and right to the two observation towers.  These overlook a large wetland complex created by the backwaters of Cherokee Lake, Mossy Creek, and several beaver dams. Common wetland plants include cattails, willows, and parrot feather. The wetland area is bordered on the south by a strip of trees a thick, shrubby understory, and on the north by a subdivision.

Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, and Mallards are present year round. From fall through spring, Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots and dabbling ducks including Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoverlers, and Green-winged Teal may be present. Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons nest nearby and Great Egrets and Little Blue Herons are fairly common in late summer. A few shorebirds may be present during migration and Wilson's Snipe are often present in winter.

White Ibis
White Ibis, an occasional summer visitor at Mossy Creek. Photo by Harold Howell.

Rare and uncommon birds reported from Mossy Creek include the White Ibis and Fish Crow. Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers nesting in the numerous dead trees and for Warbling Vireos, which formerly nested between the parking area and the upstream blinds. More common nesting songbirds include Eastern Wood-Pewees, Eastern Kingbirds, Purple Martins, Tree and Barn Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-breasted Chats, Blue Grosbeaks, and Orchard Orioles. During spring and fall, check the trees and brushy areas surrounding the wetlands for migrating warblers and other songbirds. Swamp Sparrows are common in winter.

After birding the Wildlife Viewing Area, drive or walk along West Cherokee Drive to the northwest past the sewage treatment plant to the end of the road where Mossy Creek enters Cherokee Lake. During spring and summer, check the trees for nesting Warbling Vireos and orioles. Scan the lake for herons and waterfowl.

Scan the farmfields across the road to the south for American Kestrels, Killdeer and Eastern Meadowlarks throughout the year, Northern Harriers and Savannah Sparrows from fall through spring, and Bobolinks during migration. These fields also contain suitable habitat for Horned Larks and American Pipits, although these birds have not yet been reported.

Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area is owned by TVA and jointly managed with the Jefferson City parks department and Carson Newman College.

Cherokee Dam Gulls
Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls near Cherokee Dam. Photo by Charles P. Nicholson.


Take TVA Parkway uphill from TN 92 to visitor facilities and parking areas overlooking the lake on the south side of the dam. Scan the main body of the lake for loons, grebes, cormorants, ducks (including rafts of diving ducks), and gulls from late fall through early spring. A spotting scope is highly recommended. Both Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls can be abundant during the winter, sometimes numbering in the thousands. During spring and late summer/early fall, scan for terns; Forsters, Common, Caspian and Black Terns have been reported. Sooty Terns and a Least Tern have also been found after hurricanes.

Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons can be found year-round. Bald Eagles, which nest in the area, may also be found throughout the year, especially in the tailwater area below the dam when the dam is generating power. During the summer, watch for night-herons feeding on the rock rip-rap along the lakeshore and on the face of the dam, especially in the evening.

Tree, Barn, Cliff, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows nest in the area and can be seen foraging over the fields. Orchard Orioles and Eastern Kingbirds nest in the groves of trees. Scan the fields for Blue Grosbeaks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Eastern Meadowlarks. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are often present around the fields. A trail from the restroom area to the tailwater area passes through woodland which supports woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and other woodland species. Watch for Red-headed Woodpeckers around the campground.

After birding the Cherokee Dam Road/visitor center area, go back to TN 92 and turn right (north). Take the next right to access the tailwater area immediately downstream of the dam. This area can be scanned from the boat ramp. During the winter, Palm Warblers are sometimes present around the boat ramp parking and Ospreys and Great Egrets occasionally overwinter along the tailwaters. When the dam is not generating in late spring, watch for Spotted, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers along the rocks in the tailwater area. A pair of territorial Warbling Vireos has recently been found in the large trees in this area. Shortly after this turnoff, TN 92 crosses the Holston River; a road to the right just past the bridge allows views of the north side of the tailwater area.

A short distance farther north on TN 92 is the intersection with TN 375/Lake Shore Drive. The lake can be viewed from several places along this road including Grainger County Park and May Springs Campground. A prime viewing area is at a boat ramp accessed by taking the second right along TN 375/Lakeshore Drive, 0.6 miles from the intersection with TN 92. This area overlooks a sheltered area that frequently holds wintering water birds, including loons, grebes, and diving ducks. At vey low lake levels, walk out onto what is normally an island for better views.

Other rare and uncommon birds reported from Cherokee Dam include the White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Red-throated Loon, and Eared, Red-necked, and Western Grebes.

Cherokee Dam Tailwater

Holston River below Cherokee Dam and American Kestrel. Photos by Charles P. Nicholson

American Kestrel


Tennessee Watchable Wildlife account for Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area.

TVA web site for Cherokee Dam and Reservoir.

DeLorme Tennessee Atlas & Gazetteer page 60, grids C-3, C-4.

Mossy Creek Wildlife Viewing Area:
Wildlife Viewing AreaTrails

Cherokee Dam:
RestroomsDrinking WaterAccessiblePicnic AreaCampingBoat RampTrailsFishing

Prepared by Charles P. Nicholson with assistance from Dean Edwards and Harold Howell, March 2010.

Back to Birding in East Tennessee


About Us

Birding in Tennessee


TN Bird Records Committee


Contact Us


TOS Logo