Eagle Trail

By Joe Feeman 

Eagle Trail was established in the 80s and utilizes sections of a trail that originated in the 30s. Originally called River Trail, the first section ran from the Norris town center on a series of old farm roads, beginning on what is now the location of Deer Ridge Road and continuing through the location of Eric Harold Park, then connecting with another road called Reservoir Hill Trail, which went from CCC Camp Road to Reservoir Hill. Just past the junction of these two roads the trail went down a South Central Bell telephone line corridor that ran pretty much straight down, with one bend, before reaching the trail at the bottom of the hollow.  At this point it became a single track trail that is still used. From this location to site of the Lenoir Museum, the trail is one of the first constructed in the watershed, built by the CCCs in the 30s.

Eagle Trail officially starts off of Hickory Trail Road but will be described from the starting point at Eric Harold Park. The trail is a multiple use (purple) trail and is 2.0 miles in length (from the park; 1.6 miles from Hickory Trail). From the beginning of the trail to its lowest point at mile 1.2 (intersection with Hwy 441 access) you lose 200 feet; then gain 140 feet to the Cliff Trail intersection (mile 1.5); and gain 240 feet up to Observation Point Trail intersection (mile 2.0).  From the park, walk down the right side to a sign which reads ‘access to Hickory Trail' and follow to the right behind a couple of houses. You will soon reach a sharp left hand turn and start down in a rather large sinkhole. On your right is a small patch of pawpaw trees with long narrow leaves. This common tree is somewhat of a mystery when it comes to bearing fruit. It has become very prevalent in the understory of many areas and will likely cause a change in the forest vegetation where it is dense. Although, very common, it is uncommon to find trees bearing fruit. The general thought as to why few trees bear fruit is interesting. Pawpaw blooms are a dark maroonish brown in color and have a pungent smell. Flowers are perfect, with both male and female parts, but the female parts of the flowers mature earlier than the male pollen, preventing self pollination. So in order for the flowers to be pollinated, the pollen must come from another genetic source (pawpaws spread through prolific suckering from the roots which leads to the large patches of the trees that are from the same genetic, or parent source). Pawpaws bloom in early spring when insects are not plentiful and because of the smell of their flowers they only attract beetles and flies, which are not as industrious as bees. So, pawpaws are dependent on lazy bugs and carrion flies to pollinate their flowers! If you look around you can still find some fruits. They taste like a cross between a papaya and a banana and most people either love them or hate them. The fruits ripen in September and you have to be their early because the fruit is a favorite of many wildlife species, especially opossums.

The trail climbs out of the sinkhole and soon meets Hickory Trail Road.  It is a short walk from here to Eagle Trail, but it is along the road, which goes up the hill, making it difficult to walk facing traffic. Be careful making your way. On the other side of the hill you will see a sign on the left indicating Eagle Trail (it is next to a fire hydrant). The trail goes down a short, steep hill with a slick, gravely surface. As you reach the bottom, you will see a metal fence post with a sign on the right; this is the TVA property corner and you will see trees with orange paint going down the left and right of the trail. The trail stays on TVA property until you get to Cliff Trail, some 1.1 miles away. The TVA property is zoned for sensitive resource management because of rare plants; the Clinch River Bluffs Habitat Protection Area is included on the parcel and is occupied by bugbane (Cimicifuga rubifolia), a state threatened plant species.

Cross the small drainage and continue along the contour through an old forest that has moderately heavy mortality, with numerous down trees. There has been increasing wind throw over the last 10-12 years along the trail. The trail goes behind a residence before turning sharply to the left and down the slope. After a descent you will cross a wooden bridge, bear right and start a short climb before flattening out. You will cross the old telephone corridor (and original trail location) just before you reach a forest of large dead white pine. This white pine was planted in the 40s by TVA as an experimental plantation. It was later used to study air pollution and was re-measured as late as the early 90s. It was situated between Reservoir Hill Trail (road from CCC Camp to Reservoir Hill) and the telephone line corridor and was a popular place for teenagers to gather and sometimes camp in the early 60s. The southern pine beetle devastated the trees in the early 2000s. The trail continues down a steady slope, passing behind more houses, and entering a fairly dense woodland of yellow poplar, red maple, and hickory on what was an old field at the time of purchase. You will travel down a pleasant section of trail making a sharp right turn and heading down toward the bottom of a hollow. Just before you reach the bottom, you might notice the old telephone line corridor on your right. From this point on you will be on the original trail.

Cross the small spring branch and continue down the side of the hollow on a narrow trail. In a short distance you will reach a junction; the trail continues on down the hollow to meet U.S. 441, where there was a parking area at one time and the point where the telephone line crossed the river. Eagle Trail climbs up the hill to the right on a gravely surface with moss-lined sides. Soon you will reach the top and follow the contour through a dense forest. In the winter you can see the river below which runs parallel the trail all the way to the museum. The trail goes up and down through this section and soon you will see orange paint on trees to the right and then left. This is the TVA/Norris Watershed boundary. The trail reaches a small drainage with a nice cascade on the left which can be seen from Hwy 441 and a small waterfall on the right. Cliff Trail begins just past the water crossing on the left. Eagle Trail goes straight, up the slope before leveling out somewhat. It is quite a climb from here to Observation Point Trail, but is broken up by sections that are level between climbs. A short, but steep climb takes you under a hemlock tree and then the trail flattens again. You will now reach an old road to the right with a sign that reads ‘No Outlet'; this is an old logging road that was used in the 60s to harvest an area below Observation Point. Notice the road has a long dip at the end. This is where the portable sawmill was located. I can remember passing the sawmill on a hiking trip from Norris in 1963 with Jimbo Dale to fish the river on spring break. The road now goes up to private property but at that time it was a branch off the Reservoir Hill Trail.      

As the trail levels out you will see several down trees that were cut by the 2010 and 2011 trail crews. This slope apparently receives some heavy wind because there are numerous down trees. From this point up, the trail has some gravely areas that can be slick coming down. The trail goes through west- and south-facing slopes that are dry and rocky with poor site quality and acidic soils. There is an abundance of chestnut oak, blackgum, and sourwood, along with low bush blueberry, green brier, and once was occupied by pink lady slippers. You will climb up a fairly narrow trail and soon meet Observation Point Trail.  The metal fence post on the right is a Norris Watershed property corner.

Enter supporting content here