Sharp's Ridge

KNOX COUNTY

Sharp's Ridge Memorial Park is a 1.5 mile section of ridge on the north side of Knoxville. It is one of many parallel ridges running northeast to southwest in eastern Tennessee. Unlike most of the others, it is very easily accessible with a paved road along its crest.
Sign
Photos by Charles P. Nicholson

Sharp's Ridge Memorial Park is one of the best places in the Knoxville region to observe migrant songbirds during the spring. It is well known and popular with birders, and birders are usually present weekend mornings during April and early May, and, especially in late April and early May, many weekday mornings. At this time, it is common to record 15 or more species of wood warblers, and, on occasion, 20 or more warblers. Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, thrushes, tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and orioles are regularly present.

Sharp's Ridge can also be a good place to find fall migrants, although it is less consistently productive during the fall than in the spring.

DIRECTIONS
Getting there: From I-640, take Exit 6 - Broadway/US 441. From the exit ramp, go south on Broadway (towards downtown). If you are coming from the west, turn right onto Broadway. If you are coming from the east, turn left. Go 0.7 mile on Broadway until you reach Ludlow, where you will turn right. This intersection is a short distance past a Shoney's Restaurant on the left side of Broadway. Stay on Ludlow for 0.5 miles until you reach a gap on the ridge (coordinates N 36.0090°, W 83.9343°. Go to the left at this gap; you are now on the main road along the top of the ridge.

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BIRDING SHARP'S RIDGE
Before you reach the gap in the ridge, you will go through a few intersections. Immediately past the Y intersection with Pembroke, 0.3 miles after you turn off Broadway, is a good place to make a quick stop. House Wrens nest in the adjacent yards, and Common Yellowthroats and other species of grassy/brushy areas can often be found in the field on your right.

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler, a fairly common spring migrant.
As you reach the gap on the ridge, you come to a T; turn to your left. The gap itself is usually worth a quick stop. After you turn to the left, you will be on a paved road that runs about 1.3 miles on or close to the crest of the ridge. There are several pull-offs and small parking areas along the ridge. Many birders park at a paved, striped area on the left 0.4 miles after you first get to the top of the ridge (coordinates N 36.0055°, W -83.9393°) and walk the rest of the ridge. This area, the site of the J. B. Owen Overlook (named after a prominent Knoxville birder and journalist), has a wooded observation deck and railing, and a nice view of downtown Knoxville and, if clear enough, the Smokies. One of the many tall telecommunication towers that bristle from Sharp's Ridge is directly across the road from this parking area.

If your time is limited or if you want to limit your walking, drive about 0.8 miles from where you first top the ridge to a gap where the road bends to your left at a wooden shed and just before the driveway to a house and fire tower. There is room for parking several cars on the right (coordinates N 36.0022°, W 83.9443°). The next several hundred yards to just past the picnic shelter on the right and the second of two small gravel parking areas is often the most productive area.

During the fall, closely check the masses of grape and Virginia creeper vines scattered along the ridge. Large numbers of thrashers, catbirds, thrushes, as well as smaller numbers of vireos and warblers, are often in the vines eating the fruits.

Communications Towers
View to the southwest along Sharp's Ridge roadway at the J. B. Owen Overlook (on the left). Numerous communication towers of all shapes and sizes line the crest of Sharp's Ridge.
The Sharp's Ridge roadway just west of the parking area at the wooden shed and fire tower. This stretch of the ridge is often one of the most productive areas.
Road

A checklist of the birds of Sharp's Ridge is available in two parts: Part 1, Part 2. Since this checklist was assembled, additional birds recorded on the ridge include the Wild Turkey (now fairly regular), and Clay-colored Sparrow (rare transient).

Tennessee Watchable Wildlife account.

DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer Page 59, Grid D-7 and Page 43, Grid A-7.

Wildlife Observation AreaAccessible Picnic

Prepared by Charles P. Nicholson, October 2004.

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