When January temperatures are 50+ and the sun is shining, it’s good to go outside and celebrate not rushing inside to get warm or out of the rain. Bells Bend proved to be the perfect place. It is just west of Nashville, easy to find, and the parking is simple. Lulled by the pastoral drive, I almost missed the turn. Had we gone much farther, my husband and I would have ended up taking an unexpected swim in the Cumberland River.
We had not visited Bell’s Bend in the winter before and one of the best reasons to go now is the unobstructed views of the Cumberland River and the bottomlands. The wide, grassy, can’t-get-lost-on-these trails are now marked with signs at intersections. There were people there with kids and dogs, but not too many of either. It was peaceful and smelled of sweet soil. A friendly German shorthaired pointer let us pet her soft head. A knowing local told us, “Winter is the best time to come here.”
In Butterflies of Tennessee this habitat is labeled “old farm field.” It’s flat to rolling terrain is surrounded by mature trees, and the fields are full of grasses, thistles, white crownbeard, clovers, passionflower, and common milkweed in the summer which lures the butterflies. When I have visited in June, July, and August I’ve found an average of 23 butterfly species for a few hours each visit. I wonder if Monarchs come through here in September.
The diversity here is primarily in the water resources. With a major river, a creek, 2 ponds, and other wet areas within easy access, it is a wildlife magnet. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, and redwing blackbirds live here. The leopard frogs I have seen here—are they stirring yet or still asleep?
On the riverbank, there’s a bench painted with the golden light of a setting sun. The bench invited me to return to Bell’s Bend soon to just sit and watch the Cumberland River go by. I accepted the invitation. After all, this is my water in many ways— it provides water for our garden, our cooking, and our washing. Our drinking water comes from the Cumberland.
A kingfisher laughs out loud reminding me, even on a winter day in January, that rivers mean life.
©Rita Venable 2013