Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: (276) 944-5024
- Site Access: Admission Fee, By appointment only
- Visit Website
Site MCM05: Hayter's Gap & Raven Ridge Campground
Elevation: 3043 ft. This site is located on private land and should only be visited by appointment. Sitting atop Clinch Mountain, this site offers 600 acres of varied habitat. Within this area, nature explorers will observe wildlife denizens of mature old-growth forests, eastern hardwood forests, rhododendron thickets, spring-fed woodland streams, and grassy, open clearings along a power line. Avian diversity is probably at its highest during spring or fall migration. Still, a number of high-elevation migrants take residence in these woods during the summer. Visitors should look for the local assortment of wood warblers, as well as scarlet tanager, and veery. An early morning walk might flush a resting whip-poor-will. Ruffed grouse, and wild turkey are here year-round, but are most easily visible in the summer when traveling in large family groups, with fledged young closely following the adults. Migration of hawks or kettles of turkey or black vultures riding on thermals can be a spectacular site from one of the higher points, crowned with rock outcrops and dense foliage to allow for a 270º view of the surrounding area. Bald eagles have roosted in trees at high points along this mountain ridge in the fall. Other wildlife abounds. Visitors may be lucky enough to see black bear, red fox, white-tailed deer, eastern chipmunk, and bobcat. Naturalists young and old can find green frog, newt, and other amphibians in spring-fed streams and seepages, while wood frog and red eft (the land form of the red-spotted newt) tend to remain in moist wooded areas. Turning over a few logs in search of northern slimy or mountain dusky salamanders can be productive and fun. The site owners maintain the integrity of natural flora unique to this area by restoring and nursing native plant species. Herbal treasures, such as ginseng, goldenseal, black and blue cohosh, trillium and many others carpet forest-interior mountain slopes. But be advised: the owners have installed a first class security system to deter unwanted ginseng poachers. Opportunities for exploration are endless here. Owner Charles Kennedy is also a beekeeper, and harvests sourwood honey on-site. Guided tours through this area will educate any visitor on the natural flora, fauna, history, and geology of this fascinating area. Remnants of previous life, including fossils and artifacts have been found on the property. Several fossils, including a large Arthrophycus tablet, a fossilized impression of annelid-castings, have been found in sandstone at elevations of 3500 feet, and are believed to be over 400 million years old.
From Laurel Bed Lake, follow Rt. 747/Tumbling Creek Road back to Rt. 613/Poor Valley Road. Turn right on Rt. 613/Poor Valley Road and continue west for 4.4 miles to SR 80/Mountain Gap Road. Turn right on SR 80 West/Mountain Gap Road; travel for 3.7 miles to the site entrance. To return to I-81, return to SR 80 and follow it south/east for approximately 15 miles. From there, travel north to begin the Big Walker Mountain Loop or south to start the South Holston Loop.