Conservation Days


  May 15-20, 2023  

Where We Live:

The Plants, Animals, and Geology of Middle Tennessee's Central Basin

Activities, presentations, and exhibits focused on engaging with the natural world

Main Event, May 20, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.: Wilderness Station, Barfield Crescent Park (map)

Naturalist-led Hikes and Stewardship Events, May 15-19 at various times and places around Murfreesboro. 

Come learn about Central Basin ecology, take part in naturalist-led hikes and hands-on activities, hear first-hand from natural resource professionals about the work that they do, explore local environmental issues, shop for native plants for your garden, and discover citizen science projects and volunteer stewardship opportunities in and around Murfreesboro. Hikes, activities, and information geared towards ages 10 and up. This is a free public event. 

Check back for updates! 

Volunteer to help out with Conservation Days! A variety of times and tasks will be available.

(2022 Conservation Days Agenda)

Weekday Adventures: May 15-19, 2023

People in coats and hats looking at small yellow flowers in wet, rocky opening - early springNature Walks with Naturalists 

Take a hike with an expert and learn about the plants and animals in your choice of several different local ecosystems. Group size is limited, and pre-registration required. 

Signup Genius logo and text Opens in new window

There will be naturalist-led walks on Saturday, too! See the Saturday activities section.

North Murfreesboro Greenway, Central Valley Loop: Nature Walk

Monday, May 15, 9-11 a.m.Looking through the tree trunks in an open forest in summerwith Sheila Kirk, Fisheries Biologist/Natural Resource Specialist Ranger, US Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District; L.A. Rawlings, Naturalist/Park Ranger, Long Hunter State Park; and Jason Allen, Naturalist/filmmaker with a long history on this stretch of river 

Explore the newest segment of the North Murfreesboro Greenway and enjoy stunning views of the East Fork Stones River as you learn about the plants and animals you see along the way. Approximately 3 miles.

Comfortable walking shoes, bug spray, and water are recommended.

Meet at the Central Valley Trailhead   map

Register now!

Stones River National BattlefieldWildflower Walk and Resource Management Talk

Tuesday, May 16, 3:30-5:30 p.m.yellow wildflowers against rustic wooden fence and sky. Metal statue of rifleman behind them.with John McKay, Park Ranger/Education Coordinator, and Philip Knecht, Biological Science Technician, Stones River National Battlefield

The Best of Both Worlds: Preserving Nature and History at Stones River National Battlefield: Discover the spring-blooming wildflowers and other native plants in the Battlefield's cedar glades, native grass fields, & forests, and learn how park personnel manage the Battlefield’s natural resources as part of a cultural landscape. 

Long pants, close-toed shoes, bug spray, and water are recommended.

Meet by the flagpole in front of the Stones River National Battlefield Visitor Center   map

Register now!

Siegel Natural Area: Birding Walk
(at Richard Siegel Park)

Thursday, May 18, 6:30-8:30 am Group of adults looking up into trees through binoculars. Autumnwith Susan Lanier, Wildlife Biologist, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (retired)/Member, Tennessee Ornithological Society

See the birds that inhabit the glades, barrens, and wetlands tucked away behind the soccer fields at Siegel Park. This early morning hike takes place when many birds are more active. Get I.D. tips and learn about the habits and habitats of the birds you see.

Close-toed shoes, long pants, binoculars*, water, sunscreen, and insect repellent recommended. 

*We will have several pairs of binoculars available for those who don't have their own.

Meet at Richard Siegel Park (Soccer Field #12)

Register now!

Overbridge State Natural Area: Wildflower Habitat Restoration Walk

Friday, May 19, 2:00-4:00 p.m.View across a gravelly limestone glade to grasses and trees beyond itwith Murray Gheesling, Middle Tennessee Stewardship Ecologist, Division of Natural AreasTN Department of Environment and Conservation

Hike through this 70-acre natural area located approximately eight miles east of Murfreesboro and learn how the TN Division of Natural Areas is restoring the land, formerly owned by a cattle company, to ecological health. Overbridge State Natural Area contains a globally rare limestone glade ecosystem providing habitat for various rare plant species. Managed through prescribed fire and mechanical techniques, invasive species have been reduced and ecosystem health has increased. Join us for a short off-trail hike (about 2 miles total) for a "tour and talk" about cedar glade flora and the work being done to manage this and other Central Basin State Natural Area sites. 

Parking is limited: Group max: 15 
Please carpool if possible.

Meet at Overbridge Natural Area (map)

Register now!

Person at water's edge planting vegetation in water

Volunteer Stewardship Activities

New this year: Roll up your sleeves and join the Outdoor Murfreesboro team and our partners on projects that will both get your hands dirty and make a difference for our natural surroundings. 

Pre -registration required: Check back for information on how to register for Conservation Days volunteer opportunities. (If you just can't wait, you can visit our volunteer signup page now to check out our regularly scheduled volunteer events.)

Walter Hill Trailhead: Kudzu Wrangle

Tuesday, May 16, 8-11 amScouts removing invasive vines from a tree in a wetland swaleWith Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District and Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources Staff

Kudzu, an exotic invasive vine (A.K.A. "the vine that ate the South"), is rapidly covering the hillside, engulfing trees, and choking out native plants at Walter Hill trailhead and along Highway 231 at the East Fork Stones River bridge. We will join forces to begin to remove it and recover this area. Wear sturdy boots or shoes and bring work gloves, insect repellent, and water. A hat and safety glasses are also recommended!  

Meet at Walter Hill Trailhead.

Register now!

Wilderness Station Native Gardens: Spring Garden Maintenance

Wednesday, May 17, 9 am - NoonTwo people kneeling down, gardeningWith Vicky Plant, Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources/Murfreesboro Indigenous Plant Project

Help us prep the native gardens at the Wilderness Station for the big Saturday event that caps off Conservation Days 2023! Bring gloves, water, and your favorite gardening tools. And maybe a gardening seat, too, if you need it.

Meet at the Wilderness Station

Register now!

Lytle Creek Greenway: Litter Removal

Thursday, May 18, 9:30 -11:30 amPeople in park with bags of trash from cleanupWith Murfreesboro's Guardians of the Greenway.

By clearing out the litter that gets carried into the creek and riparian buffer by runoff from the surrounding streets, your work will help restore the area both ecologically and aesthetically.

Long pants, close-toed shoes, bug spray, and water are recommended.   

Meet at Cannonsburgh Trailhead

Register now!

Nickajack Wetlands Natural AreaTurtle Search

Friday, May 19, 9:00-11:30 am Eastern box turtle - Photo by Ashleigh Newneswith Rachel Singer, Outdoor Murfreesboro /Assistant Director, Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation

Participate in a long-running eastern box turtle research project at Nickajack Wetlands Natural Area. Become part of our research team as we collect data on these resident reptiles to determine their population and health. Learn cool turtle facts, why they are listed as a species of concern in Tennessee, and how to use field equipment to take weights, measurements, and environmental readings. 

The turtle search will take you off-trail in the woods: long pants, close-toed shoes, bug spray, and water are recommended.

Main Event: Saturday, May 20

9:00 am - 3:00 pm. Wilderness Station at Barfield Park 

Wilderness Station

Exhibits (9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.), Plant Sale (9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.), and food trucks (lunchtime) are in the Wilderness Station parking lot. This area is closed to vehicles from 7 a.m. - 4 p.m.

See 2022 Conservation Days Speakers, Presentation Titles, Activities, and Exhibits


Native Plant Sale

9 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.: Wilderness Station parking lot  Come early for the best selection! Pick up purchased plants by 2:30.

Purchase locally-native plants to enhance your landscaping and support backyard wildlife, then park them in our plant corral while you take part in Conservation Days activities. (Be sure to take a Native Garden tour during the day!)

More about MIPP, the Murfreesboro Indigenous Plant Project


Presentations take place in the Wilderness Station meeting room. Speakers will be added to the agenda as they are confirmed.

OUTDOOR MURFREESBORO LOGO 9:30-9:45  Outdoor Murfreesboro’s Vision - Rachel Singer, Outdoor Murfreesboro /Assistant Director, Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation: Protecting and connecting to nature in the city.
Fossil shell in limestone rock9:45-10:30  Central Basin Geology - Greg Upham, Town of Smyrna Storm Water Program Coordinator/Geologist: Underneath it all, the highly erodible karst limestone that is characteristic of the Central Basin has for eons shaped the life and ecosystems of the region.
Kiosk in front of field of orange flowers. Bordered by a paved path, trees and a wooden fence.11:00-11:15  Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources Division - What We Do - Kristin Hopkins, Natural Resource Manager, Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources Division: Surveying, restoring, and caring for Murfreesboro's natural spaces.
Small pink, white, and purple wildflowers, mixed, growing with grasses11:15-12:00  Central Basin Flora - Speaker TBA: Famous for its diversity, the native vegetation in Middle Tennessee also includes an unusually high number of rare plant species and some globally rare plant communities.
Fathers and sons in kayaks on a river12:30-12:45  Outdoor Murfreesboro Education & Adventure Recreation Programming - Dawn Thomas, Outdoor Murfreesboro, Wilderness Station Coordinator: Connecting citizens with the natural world around them.
River otter with frog in mouth emerging from river on log12:45-1:30  Central Basin Fauna - Kristen Garrison, Naturalist/National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guide: Adapted to the climate and geology of the region, the Central Basin is home to some globally unique or rare animal species.
Women with dog walking on paved path through woods in winter2:00-2:15  Living in Murfreesboro, the heart of the Central BasinAngela Jackson, Executive Director of Community Services, City of Murfreesboro: - Murfreesboro's natural setting and natural spaces contribute to quality of life in the city.
Purple-flowered grass against green trees with blue sky2:15-3:00  Central Basin Ecology - Brian T. Miller, Professor of Biology, Middle Tennessee State University: Significant habitats in the Central Basin: their fragility, significant occupants, and distribution

Eastern tiger swallowtail by Joshua J. CottenSaturday Activities - Choose your own adventure!

From hikes to hands-on workshops, Conservation Days activities are led by naturalists, professional natural resource managers, and other knowledgeable folks who will share their expertise with you.

Meet in front of the Wilderness Station.

Nature Hike - Barfield Backcountry

Times TBASign marking trail distancesRandy Hedgepath, TN State Naturalist

Hike the trail through the Barfield Backcountry and learn about the various plants and animals found there.

Meet in front of the Wilderness Station.

Wilderness Station Native Garden Tours

Times TBAClose view of yellow and purple flowers in fieldVicky Plant, Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources Division

Learn about the plants in the Wilderness Station's native garden and native rain garden and gain some handy planting tips and techniques. Get inspiration and species selection guidance for your own yard! 

Meet in front of the Wilderness Station.

Intro to iNaturalist: CitSci in Your Pocket

Times TBATwo people photographing tiny yellow flowers with smartphonesLauren May, Outdoor Murfreesboro Natural Resources Division

It's not only a great way to learn more about the natural world you see around you - you can also contribute to biodiversity science as a Citizen Scientist using iNaturalist! Help Outdoor Murfreesboro's Natural Resource team inventory the native plants and animals in our area by recording your observations online. (Observations in Murfreesboro)

*You don't need the iNat app to use iNaturalist, but if you plan to use it during this workshop, please install it on your smartphone before you arrive. WiFi is not available at the Wilderness Station.

Meet in front of the Wilderness Station.

ADA Buggy Trail Rides

Times TBAGolf cart with ramp for wheelchairswith Outdoor Murfreesboro Staff

Introducing Outdoor Murfreesboro’s brand new wheelchair accessible golf cart! Get away from the crowd and take a naturalist-guided spin down the trail in the Barfield Backcountry. Our buggy accommodates three passengers in regular seating and one passenger in a wheelchair (with safety tie-downs). Wheelchair-bound individuals and their caretakers get dibs on these rides during this event.

 Please contact us for more information.

Registration opens soon

Check back for more Activities!

Topics and times TBAbee approaching purple flower


Working for WildlifeTree frog perched on person's thumb

Join the Wilderness Station crew for an up-close look at some of the reptiles, birds, and mammals that are in decline here in Tennessee. We will have activities, games, and knowledge to share about Eastern Box Turtles, birds of prey, and native bat species. Enjoy live animal presentations scattered throughout the day, and engage with working professionals dedicated to wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, education, and research. Learn the tricks-of-the-trade, and practice using some of the equipment they use in their respective fields.

Wilderness Station Nature Center & Gift Shop

Young boy watching large turtle swimming in tankThe Wilderness Station is home to many education animals, including owls, snakes, turtles, and more. There are free educational backpacks available for checkout, and the gift shop sells nature-themed toys and books, snacks and drinks, and local artwork, jewelry, and pottery.

Animal Ambassadors

Red-Tailed Hawk imagePeriodically throughout the day Wilderness Station staff will present these special animals to attendees. WS Animal Ambassadors - animals that were found injured and were rehabilitated but remain unreleasable due to their injuries -  include a red-tailed hawk, an eastern screech owl, and an American kestrel.

Nature Play
Children with fish nets playing in purple wading pool with water and stones Opens in new window

Kids of all ages: Have fun in our nature-themed play area while learning about conservation and environmental protection. Features include a turtle pond, sandbox, playhouse, bird watching area, and self-guided nature scavenger hunt with a prize. 

Pavilion 9

Food Trucks

Red and yellow food trucks behind picnic tables and treesTake a break and refuel at one of the food trucks on site for the event:

Wilderness Station parking lot

Exhibits and Participating Organizations:

9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Meet the people who are active natural resource stewards in the region, learn about their projects, and find volunteer opportunities and other ways to support their efforts. 

*Confirmed for 2023

Read about the 2022 Participating Organizations here.

USFWS Partners Program

USFWS-Partners Program-logo Opens in new window

Conservation Days is presented by Outdoor Murfreesboro’s Natural Resource Division in support of our Conservation in Action initiative.