As we move from the dog days of summer to crisp mornings of autumn, outdoor enthusiasts set their sights on new avenues to explore, and if you haven't explored the Sequatchie Valley, put this region at the top of your list. The valley and ridge formed by the Sequatchie River — spanning from South Pittsburgh to Crab Orchard — is one of the most picturesque valleys in the state, boasting a wide assortment of recreational sites. The valley, which sits in the shadows of the Cumberland Plateau, also has a rich agricultural past and present.
"This area is one of our ten conservation opportunity regions across the state as identified through our strategic conservation plan, Forever Tennessee, because of its outstanding conservation values," said Emily Parish, vice president of The Land Trust for Tennessee. "The river valley is simply beautiful, with an unsurpassed cultural heritage, rolling farmland, lush forests and so many wide open landscapes to soak in. It is one of those irreplaceable landscapes in Tennessee we work to protect, so future generations can enjoy the beauty of this region, just as we do today."
One recent project in the valley is the Sequatchie Cave State Natural Area, where a collaboration between The Land Trust for Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation resulted in the expansion of the State Natural Area from 12 acres to 137 acres.
The Sequatchie Cave SNA is a beautiful spot where Owen Spring Branch flows from the mouth of the cave and is home to several unique and endangered aquatic species. The expansion of the State Natural Area created a protected area for scientific research to be conducted without disturbing or further endangering the rare critters.
For those looking for a little more adventure, the town of Jasper is graced by Castle Rock, one of Southeast Tennessee's leading climbing destinations. The climbing destination boasts nearly half a mile of bluff line — portions of which are up to 120 feet tall — with nearly 100 sport and traditional routes popular among local and regional rock climbers. The protection of Castle Rock was a collaboration among a private landowner, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, The Land Trust for Tennessee, The Conservation Fund and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.
Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy the valley from the sky thanks to groups such as the Tennessee Tree Toppers, a nonprofit organization that works to promote and preserve hang gliding and paragliding in the area. The Land Trust for Tennessee worked with the organization early on to protect the 44-acre main landing area below the launch site on the Cumberland Plateau.
There's no better way to get to know the Sequatchie Valley than by participating in Cycle Sequatchie on October 2, 2021. This annual event combines a series of beautiful bike rides, local food at the Farmer's Feast, hikes, nature walks and an outdoor expo. Velo View Bike Tours and Chattanooga Bicycle Club have designed multiple cycling courses along beautiful rural roads for cyclists to enjoy the scenic views that define the Sequatchie Valley. Proceeds from the Cycle Sequatchie event benefit The Land Trust for Tennessee and its ongoing conservation work in the Sequatchie Valley and the South Cumberland Plateau.
"The Riverview Foundation is honored to be a sponsor of Cycle Sequatchie's Farmer's Feast event this year," said Bruz Clark, Riverview's executive director. "The conservation of forestland and farmland and expansion of regional outdoor recreation assets are top priorities for Riverview. We appreciate having partners like The Land Trust for Tennessee, City of Dunlap, Sequatchie County and Cycle Sequatchie to boost public awareness about this magnificent valley and cultivate enduring relationships that lead to greater protection of its natural areas, agricultural legacy, and rural character."
"The idea behind Cycle Sequatchie is to show off the beautiful backroads of Sequatchie Valley and introduce people to all of the amazing outdoor recreation opportunities in the area," said Shannon Burke, ride director for Cycle Sequatchie. "The hope is that the more people that are interested in this gorgeous landscape, the more they'll be interested in helping to preserve it. That's why we partnered with The Land Trust for Tennessee for the event. We wanted to bring attention to the work they're doing to protect family farms and wilderness areas, and we wanted to support them financially as the event's beneficiary."