Something new has been added to the area surrounding the Old Railroad Bridge(ORBC) – a small amphitheater. It is located just upstream of the bridge on the edge of the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation. You can reach this amphitheater by a gravel walkway leading down the river bank for about one hundred feet. It is about seventy five feet from the river bank against a natural bluff and cove, shaded by large trees. There you will find six timber benches with stone bases that can seat thirty five people. From here visitors can learn about the local environment, conservation, and wildlife and will be encouraged to see and value the world around them. They can explore a part of the community they might otherwise not know existed so near to home.
This area presents a unique opportunity to provide experiences along nature trails, natural habitats and river scenery. People of all ages will experience an atmosphere of discovery and stewardship of our natural world. Whether you are a teacher with a group of students, scout troops on a hike, or just someone who enjoys getting in touch with nature, this amphitheater is the place for you. From here you can connect with the fourteen miles of hiking/walking trails. The Old Railroad Bridge paved trails are connected to the paved bike trail along Ashe Blvd., and to trails in Sheffield. Future plans for the Shoals area calls for the extension of trails on to Patton Island through the MPO bike trail system.
According to TVA studies, found on the reservation and around the amphitheater are 103 varieties of trees and shrubs, seventy varieties of herbaceous plants, fifty nine types of birds and over fifty species of fish and mussels. The site also presents an opportunity to review the history of the Shoals. The Old Railroad Bridge has been an integral part of local history since 1832 providing transportation by train and automobile. The setting would allow discussions of types of boats that have traveled the river, the canal and its history of getting around the shoals in the river, Wilson Dam, flood control and power production.
The area is designed to serve a broad audience for school groups to adults and families for a number of special events. Nature areas like this are important for every community and they provide a way to teach children to learn, appreciate, and take care of nature in a fun and engaging environment.
Whatever your interest or fitness level, there is much here for those in the Shoals area. You will find a peaceful place to have lunch, go bird watching, observe nature, walk your dog or go jogging. The ORB and amphitheater is here for public use and enjoyment, for leisure and learning. We want everyone to know what a great resource is available to them.
By: James Bedsole, Board Secretary, Old Railroad Bridge Co., Inc.