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    The Wolf River Trails offer peace and quiet


    Starting at Baker’s Pond in Benton County, Miss., and meandering through several small towns in North Mississippi and West Tennessee before reaching its confluence with the Mississippi River near Downtown Memphis, the Wolf River and its subsequent watershed provide some 105 miles of textbook bottomland hardwood forest — an indigenous and scenic ecosystem native to the Southeastern United States.
    The Wolf River is generally divided into the Upper Wolf and Lower Wolf. The Upper Wolf is extremely popular with canoeists and kayakers for its beautiful scenery and iconic wildlife, which include minks, otters, darters and bald eagles. As a result of the efforts of the Wolf River Conservancy, the Upper Wolf still remains largely unspoiled and sensitive species like these can survive.
    “Our job is to protect the Wolf River Watershed,” Stewart Austin, Board President of the Wolf River Conservancy, said. “We do three things:  conservation, recreation and education.”
    The watershed, which is 522,000 acres, is responsible for providing the city with its famous underground aquifers.
    “(The Wolf River) is kind of the backbone of the area,” Stewart said. “Most people don’t realize that the water MLGW (Memphis, Light, Gas and Water) pumps out of the ground in Midtown started off as a rain drop in Fayette County 300 years ago.”
    In contrast, the Lower Wolf runs through the middle of Memphis, and as a result it has been channelized, urbanized, dammed and polluted for almost two centuries.
    However, as a result of the annual flooding, the surrounding area around the river remains undeveloped, and provides a sanctuary for heartier species such as kites, hawks, herons, coyotes, foxes and various reptiles and amphibians to thrive.
    The East Memphis section of the Wolf River provides the backbone for Shelby Farms, one of the largest urban parks in the world. Shelby Farms provides park goers with 4,500 acres of lakes, forests, paved and unpaved trails and other natural areas.
    The Wolf River Trails wind through the Lucius E. Burch Natural Area south of Walnut Grove Road. The trails can be hiked, biked or ran, and dogs are allowed on leashes. Horseback riding is also allowed in certain parts of the trails.
    The Wolf River Trails can be traversed as an 8-mile loop, 4-mile loop or a shorter loop due to the many switchbacks, according to AllTrails.com.
    The Blue Trail is generally more popular during the spring and summer months due to the alluvial nature of the river that sometimes floods the Yellow Trail. However, the more scenic Yellow Trail is more popular in the fall and winter because the Blue Trail tends to remain muddy longer after rain due to the lower elevation and thicker canopy.
    While much more urbanized and generally less pristine than the Upper Wolf, the Wolf River Trails are still a valuable natural resource. Whether it’s an after work trail run to clear the head or a Sunday nature walk with the family, these trails can provide access to the great outdoors without ever leaving the city limits.