It's one of the most tranquil places in all of Cocke County and also one of the busiest places. Rankin Bottoms, in the upper part of Douglas Lake, is one of the best sites in the state for watching warm season water birds.
"TWRA manages this area as a wildlife management area," says Michael Sledjeski, Director of Friends of Rankin Bottoms. "It's actually TVA property. Right now the lake is full, this is the summer level, what you see here is flooded. In the winter time, the lake comes down and we're looking at a couple of ponds here and there but for the most part it's a broad meadow."
Sledjeski visits Rankin Bottom often to keep track of what birds are in the area."
"It's really a Mecca for water birds of all kinds. Migratory shore birds and song birds. Birds of prey and wading birds."
Sledjeski credits the fertile land that TVA flooded for attracting the birds.
"Because of that, a lot of fish breed here. We have a lot of fishermen coming here. The fishing is great and fish fingerlings attract a lot of birds so it's an ecological hot spot."
According to the Tennessee Ornithological Society 89 species have been spotted at Rankin Bottoms. The most common and abundant birds seen in the late summer/early fall include: Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret , Black-crowned Night-Heron.
Also spotted are the majority of Tennessee's ducks and geese, Bald Eagles and Sandhill Cranes.
"A lot of birders like to come and see any unusual birds that we report," says Sledjeski. "We also like to look at the furry wildlife. There are lot of beavers here, a lot of otters and muskrats and deer."
Sledjeski and other birders pay a lot of attention to the coal tower that overlooks the area.
"Ospreys have moved in here because they're fish hawks, the fishing is great. Osprey like to be in a high location with a good view all around so it's the perfect spot for an osprey nest. One of the birds that we saw was a Cormorant, they moved into the area and they have one of the few rookeries in East Tennessee. They're great fishermen and our local fishermen are in competition because they dive really deep and go after the trophy fish. The ospreys just go to the fish on top of the water. The Cormorant like it here and are breeding heavily."
He also says it's a great place to view the majestic Bald Eagles.
"In the spring as water level rises, it's very shallow in the grassy areas and the carp moves in by the thousands. They (carp) love this area of Douglas Lake. They come in to breed and they're in very shallow water, their fins are exposed above the water so they're very easy picking for eagles and so the eagles congregate here. Last year we had a high count of 25 bald eagles in one day, this year the highest was 18. Lots of adults and many more juvenile."
Sledjeski says birders from all over will come to Rankin Bottoms during the Labor Day holiday.
"The water level goes down when the shore birds are in migration. It just hits the spot, the timing is perfect around Labor Day and you'll see a lot of shore birds, there were 32 different species and along with them many birders will come to see as many different species each year as possible."
For directions to Rankin Bottoms and other information visit the Tennessee Watchable Wildlife website.