Nature Watch Areas
Our Woodlands Nature Watch Areas offer optimum opportunity to see native wildlife thrive at Land Between the Lakes. We manage the area to keep the forest healthy and to keep invasive species from taking control of our native landscape. We also plant crops to help native wildlife build habitats for healthy living and hide from predators. Learn more about USDA Forest Service Nature Watch Areas at the Nature Station page.
Interested in watching wildlife? Check out our Wildlife Viewing page for suggested hot spots and tips.
Know before you go! Always check the Alerts page before embarking on your Nature Watch adventure.
South Nature Watch Area
At the South Nature Watch Area, you’ll enjoy scenic hiking year-round. Different types of birds, not usually seen in other areas of Land Between the Lakes, can be seen in the South Nature Watch Area. The Fort Henry Trail System has connecting trails that wind through this area off Forest Service Road 230.
Bear Creek Trail - FS Rd #230
You’ll find this trail to be the most diverse hiking trail for wildflowers from March through May.
Devil’s Backbone - FS Rd #230
This trail offers unique plant communities.
Woodlands Nature Watch
The Woodlands Nature Watch Area boasts the best opportunity to view a wide array of wildlife. The 6,800-acre Nature Watch Area is managed for wildlife viewability. It contains uplands, prairie, wetlands, lakeshore, and bottomland forest. Close to 260 species of birds and 55 species of mammals have been documented in Land Between the Lakes.
Mulberry Flat Road - FS Rd #135
As one of the best paved roads for wildlife viewing in Land Between the Lakes, you may see several species at any time of the day or year. Wild turkey, box turtles, coyotes, and the occasional bobcat cross frequently as they forage on the forest floor. You’ll find a mature oak and hickory forest with openings allowing viewings of woodpeckers, wild turkeys, tanagers, coyotes, gray foxes, white tailed deer, and gray squirrels.
Bugg Spring Pond - FS Rd #134
Located across from Hematite Lake, you may find herons, waterfowl, wetland birds, muskrats, bats, gars, and turtles. This observation pond offers a great place for families to bring their kids to explore.
Hematite Lake Trail - FS Rd #134
Encircling 80-acre Hematite Lake, this 2.2-mile loop trail is known for its high diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and woodland wildflowers. The landscape is marked with remnants of the iron industry. This forest patch hosts the closest to “old growth” forest in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
Hematite Lake Trail Boardwalk - FS Rd #134
Canebrake and willow border this ¼ mile long wetland boardwalk. The boardwalk allows the visitor to peer into a beaver marsh without a muddy foot or scraped knee. Look for spring cress in April, jewelweed and purple fringeless orchids in July, and the cardinal flower in September.
Center Furnace Field - FS Rd #133
Groundhogs, fallow deer, and roosting vultures make this historic structure from the 1840s home. It was once the hub of a large iron industry that shaped the landscape of the Nature Watch Area today. A colony of groundhogs inhabit the flat area below the furnace where the pig iron bars were formed. Eurasian fallow deer often graze in the area. Land owners introduced this remnant herd of fallow deer in the early 1900’s after the white-tailed deer were hunted out. Turkey vultures and black vultures sun themselves with morning rays on the crumbling bricks of the nicknamed “Great Granddaddy Furnace.” Its proper name, Center Furnace, comes from its location in between Fulton Furnace to the north and Empire Furnace to the south.
Nature Station Prairie - FS Rd #133
Blue grosbeaks and indigo buntings forage in this restored tall grass prairie, the result of a successful habitat improvement project. This restoration project demonstrates our dedication to control non-native grasses that, if left unchecked, would make the 30-acre field a “biological desert.”
Woodlands Nature Station Backyard - FS Rd #133
Native plants, flowers, and wildlife surround you as you step inside the “secret garden” of the Woodlands Nature Station. This tucked-away, educational nature center offers opportunities to view many different songbirds like prothonotary warblers, orchard orioles, and parulas. The Nature Station hosts one of the best views inside a bat roosting box, a working bee hive, and a busy purple martin colony. Woodlands Nature Station is best known for its hundreds of ruby-throated hummingbirds that hover up close and personal to all visitors during their migratory season in late summer.
Long Creek Paved Trail - FS Rd #134
Peek into the bottomland forest of Land Between the Lakes as this ¼ mile paved, accessible path leads you through sycamores, sweet gums, and oak stands. Kingfishers, green herons, and beaver inhabit these deep woods.
Empire Point - FS Rd #135 #137
Birds of prey, cormorants, and deer combine with spectacular sunrises and scenic shoreline vistas. Hike the old road beds amongst the old farm buildings looking for grassland birds and fleeting glimpses of foxes, bobcats, and coyotes. Empire Point once served as the headquarters for the Kentucky Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge founded in the 1930s. Later it transformed to an agricultural education center in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Empire Point’s open grasslands have been maintained by cooperative farmers who still gather hay for livestock, keeping trees from overtaking its views.
Honker Lake and Trail - FS Rd #138
Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s for waterfowl management, Honker Lake, a shallow 180-acre impoundment, hosts several wildlife reintroductions such as beaver, osprey, giant Canada geese, and otters. The lake offers three great ways to view wildlife: by foot, by canoe or kayak, and by car.
A 4.5 mile loop trail circles the lake, taking the hiker through lakeshore, uplands, and bottomland forest. Kayaking and canoeing provide a different vantage point to wildlife in these calm waters. You can also drive to Honker Dam and view wildlife from there. Watch osprey dive for fish, see lotus flowers blooming, and hear beavers slap the water with their paddle-like tail.
Honker Dam - FS Rd #138
Summer breezes bring in nesting osprey, herons stroll the rocky banks, and mink pop up seeking an easy meal amongst the driftwood. Winter chills host hundreds of weary coots, mergansers, teal, pelicans, and grebes. Northern eagles inspect the back bays for potential prey. Search the shallows as occasionally one can catch a peek at resting Sandhill cranes, a patrolling bobcat, or an ornery otter enjoying a cool swim.
Bobcat Point - FS Rd #135
Scenic lakeside views allow you to enjoy an amazing glimpse of sunrises and sunsets. The offshore mudflats encourage shorebirds, pelicans, cormorants, and rafts of diving ducks during winter’s frosty touch. Summertime viewing is best done via kayak or canoe. For a loop paddling experience, put in on Honker Bay and pull out on Lake Barkley.
Taylor Bay - FS Rd #135
Paddle to wooded islands guarding the mouth of this bay. Flowering vines cover the shorelines along with snowy egrets — drawing wildlife enthusiasts to spend some time exploring. Taylor Bay serves as the only campground in the Nature Watch Area. It is best utilized with watercraft. August is the best month to view an array of wildlife such as eagles, osprey, wood ducks, and the occasional otter.
Energy Dam - FS Rd #134
Thousands of pelicans collect in March and October, settling in after a long migration. This southern exit of the Nature Watch Area is well known to fishermen and a fantastic location for spotting waterfowl and wading birds. Energy Lake, a 300-acre impoundment, was created in the 1930s for waterfowl and fish management. Now, black-crowned night herons inhabit the summer shores and ruddy ducks occupy its wintery waters.