Powell River Preserve Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area

The Powell River Preserve is a 15-acre natural area located in Claiborne County bordering the Powell River. This small preserve occurs on moist calcareous slopes where wet seeps support large populations of state listed species. The most distinctive communities at the Powell River Preserve are the northern white cedar shrub community and white cedar mixed hardwood community. The shrub community is a discontinuous stand of shrubs and stunted trees that form a dense thicket around the rocky opening. The inside of the cedar stand is dark and the litter layer is of a “mor” type, often characteristic of conifers. Shrubs commonly associated with this rocky area include witch hazel, spicebush, fragrant sumac, and southern black haw. Trees in this community include hackberry, redbud, eastern red cedar, tulip poplar, chinkapin oak, and white cedar. Rare plant species that occur in the seep include shining ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes lucida), maple-leaf alumroot (Heuchera longiflora var. aceroides), and grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia), along with more common species like cane, coreopsis, and false rue.

The seep area and white cedar shrub area are relatively small. Much of the natural area is a mixed mesophytic forest with oak species, white ash, red and sugar maple, buckeye, basswood, and tulip poplar. Chinkapin oak is the most dominant species at mid-slope, while tulip poplar is most prevalent on the lower slopes. There are also open areas down slope that occur on bedrock ledges where marl and loose stone create a medium that grows moss, parnassia, selaginella, sedges, and panic-grass. Barren species like little bluestem, sunflower, boneset, coreopsis, and goldenrods grow where soils tend to accumulate in open areas. Alder, cane, sycamore, Indian grass, and little bluestem occur in a riparian plant community near the river.

Site Management

Division of Natural Areas, William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 2nd Floor, Nashville, TN 37243, phone (615) 532-0431. Division of Natural Areas – East TN office, 3711 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921, phone (865) 594-5601.

Public Access

Parking and boat carry access to the Powell River is provided to carry small boats to the river for launch and take-out.  Only canoes, kayaks, and jon boats are allowed.  There is no ramp, only a stairway carry access.  Parking is first-come, first-serve and visitors are asked to park in a manner that will not obstruct ingress and egress of other visitors.  The site has no restroom or trash facilities, so visitors are asked to practice “leave no trace” ethics – take out with you whatever you bring in; respect the river and do not litter.  Camping and fires are not allowed on the site.

Directions

The site is north of the town of Tazewell and south of Harrogate, Tennessee.  On U.S. Highway 25E, turn on the Powell River Road.  Brown and white signs on the highway mark the turn.  Travel approximately 4 miles up the river road and the parking area is on the right.  The river road is narrow.  Drive carefully and exercise caution.

Details & Map

  • Map to Powell River Preserve
  • Owned by the State of Tennessee
  • Wheeler 7.5-minute quadrangle
  • Ridge and Valley Physiographic Province
  • Designated in 1995