9 Lakes Region - Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council

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East Tennessee is the perfect place to view wildlife and nature.

Drive your car or ride the tractor-pulled wagon on a 4-mile safari at Briarwood Ranch Safari (225 Briar Thicket Rd., Bybee, TN Ph: 865-919-5072) through beautiful hills and pasture lands, where you’ll see animals from 6 continents. Take plenty of time to study their behavior from the safety of your own car, and bring your camera. Get up close and personal with friendlier animals in the petty zoo.
Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and elsewhere in the eastern U.S., but by the mid-1800s they were over-hunting and their habitat was lost. Populations were  reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001. Today, you can see elk at Hatfield Knob in Campbell County. The best time to view elk are usually early morning and late evenings and are best viewed at a distance using binoculars. If you approach an animal so closely that it stops feeding, changes directions of travel, or otherwise alters its behavior, you are too close. Weighing an average of 600 to 700 pounds (cows weigh an average of 500 pounds), adults are seven to 10 feet long from nose to tail and stand 4.5 to 5 feet tall at the shoulder and have antlers as wide as five feet.

Tour the 11-mile loop, which is open to auto, bicycle and foot traffic at Cades Cove (7144 East Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882 Ph: 865-448-0205 www.cadescove.net).  See the white-tailed deer, best seen in the early morning. Summer months provide a great opportunity to see a black bear because they feed on berries. If you see a black bear, give it plenty of room and definitely don’t try to feed them. The Cove has many other forms of wildlife like wild turkeys, wild hogs, coyotes, fox, river otters as well as bobcats. The Smokies support a large number of bobcats and most people don’t even know they are around. They are a very elusive animal and do most of their roaming at night.

Fun barnyard animals, clean family comedians, magicians, jugglers, fire-eaters and a full country band await you at the Comedy Barn Theater Comedy Barn (2775 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 Ph:865-428-5222/1-800-295-2844 www.comedybarn.com). The award winning family comedy variety show is an enjoyable evening of family fun. You'll laugh until you can't laugh anymore.

Thirty-two magnificent horses and a cast of top-notch riders thrill you with daring feats of trick riding at Dixie Stampede (3849 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868 Ph: 1-800-356-1676 www.dixiestampede.com). Be amazed at the hilarious ostrich races and world-famous racing pigs. It’s the perfect place for families, friends and groups to gather for spectacular special effects and amazing stunts by the most talented performers in the area. It’s the only place that brings together stunning performers, amazing horse feats, fantastic stunt riders, magic and audience participation with a delicious four-course dinner extravaganza for one amazing price!

See more than 800 animals at the 52-acre  Knoxville Zoological Garden (3500 Knoxville Zoo Drive, Knoxville, TN 37914 Ph: 865-637-5331 www.knoxville-zoo.org) which exhibits exotic and native species. Enjoy Kids Cove (a children’s play area including a petting zoo), camel rides and more. Discover a world of wonder at Knoxville Zoo. Grasslands Africa! brings the animals of Africa to one location. Enjoy elephants, giraffe, zebra, kudu, gazelles, waterbuck and several birds.

Circle G Ranch (861 Thorn Grove Pike, Strawberry Plains, TN 37871 Ph: 865-932-0070 www.ridecamels.com) offers a unique adventure just minutes from Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, and the great Smokey Mountains. With over 62 acres, 23 camels, as well as many exotic animals, they are USDA licensed and insured, Circle G Ranch keep things professional, safe, and fun. Entertaining the public and educating them about these gentle giants is their goal. The animals  are friendly, healthy, well groomed exotic farm animals, well treated, and very much loved. It’s a hayride you’ll never forget.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (88 River Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 Ph: 865-430-8808 www.ripleysaquariumofthesmokies.com) is literally teaming with life - 10,000 exotic sea creatures comprise more than 350 individual species. There are more fish in this aquarium than there are people living in the entire town of Gatlinburg. Although Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is hundreds of miles from the ocean, the scenic beauty and the abundance of water all around make the town of Gatlinburg a "natural" location for a world-class aquarium, America's most fun aquarium.

Discover some of earth’s most beautiful creatures in Rainforest Adventure (Governor’s Crossing, 109 NASCAR Drive, Sevierville, TN 37862 Ph: 865-428-4091 www.rfadventures.com). With 120 species in their habitats, hourly shows by expert handlers, educational live exhibits, exotic birds and tropical flowers this is a great adventure for all ages.

For more information about viewing wildlife in East Tennessee, visit www.easttnvacations.com.