[Knoxville, TN] — The words “urban” and “wilderness” aren’t often used together in the same sentence. But at the Ijams Nature Center (pronounced like “Im’s,” not “I-jams” by the way), in the eastern Tennessee city of Knoxville,I heard those words spoken together over and over.

“There are very few cities in the U.S. that have an urban wilderness this close,” says Paul James, the center’s Executive Director.

The Ijams Nature Center is a 275-acre “wildlife sanctuary and learning center” on the edge of downtown Knoxville. The park is named for the Ijams family who built their home there in 1910 and were avid ornithologists and horticulturists. The city of Knoxville acquired the property — which had operated as a private nature preserve since the 1940s — from the family in 1965. The grounds include two former marble quarries — reclaimed natural areas — one of which features a 25-acre lake that’s a popular fishing hole.

The public nature park is run as a nonprofit, member-supported facility, and offers 10 miles of trails for hiking and biking, a visitor center with exhibits on natural history and lost species, and a children’s play area.

“It’s an urban wilderness experience you won’t get in any other city” (there’s that phrase again), says Carol Evans from the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center.

I toured Ijams during a press trip to Knoxville last week, and discovered it is indeed an urban oasis. Executive Director Paul James took our group for a short walk around the hiking trails, and it’s easy to forget that you’re right on the edge of a city — although it did help me remember that I should get out and get more exercise!


Ijams Nature Center

2915 Island Home Ave.

Knoxville, TN 37920

(865) 577-4717


Knoxville tourism: http://www.knoxville.org/

Tennessee tourism: http://www.tnvacation.com/


About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

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  1. Christina

    May 27, 2012

    That’s pretty cool! I like reading about the less well-known places, especially those near a big city that never get the attention because the “big”attractions steal their thunder!
    Christina recently posted..#WhyYVR update: celebrating touchdown of Virgin Atlantic’s first flight to Vancouver

  2. That is very cool. I love finding nature in urban settings.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Quirky Attraction: Zzyzx Road

  3. Jan Ross

    May 27, 2012

    Thanks for sharing. I had no idea this existed – and I live only about 3 hours from Knoxville!
    Jan Ross recently posted..Who, What, When, Where and Why – the Five W’s of a Bargain Beach Vacation

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