Shelby Farms


Wolf River (Yellow) Trail Out, Blue/White Trail Combo Back


Wednesday, April 14, 2010



This great park lies right in the midst of the western suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee ( and it’s a nice resource for the area because while I'm sure it's not like this all the time, many of the nastiest and dumbest things that I have ever seen on the road have happened in or around this city.  If you live out here and need some de-stressing this would be a great place to come. 


I can certainly understand those who are unable to stomach reciprocating nasty behavior.  If you react, you spread the ill will.  If you don't, you're still left with anger toward the other person which is not healthy to keep bottled up.  Well, this fine nature preserve is the kind of place where one can go to come to terms with things.  In fact, I found a couple other places right around this general area as well – the Germantown Greenway and a short, 15 minute hike (perfect for lunch time or for the kids) in the Riverwoods Natural Area (  I believe there are more.


Anyway, on this particular day I had at first set out to kayak the Wolf River, but after driving around for quite a while and not finding a put in, I found myself in the trailhead parking lot for this Wolf River Trail – the next best thing!  It looked like the current in the river was pretty strong anyway, and since I only paddle up rivers that I’m unfamiliar with, I might not have gotten very far in the first place.  Thus, I pulled on a pair of jeans over the bathing suit I’d been wearing and headed out on a path which led down toward the river.



This park is in the northwest sector of the Germantown Road/Wolf River Boulevard intersection, and the entrance to it is on the north side of the bridge over the Wolf River on Germantown Road (see full directions below).  There seem to be 3 main color coded trails out here, each about 4 miles long.  The Yellow Trail generally leads along the riverbank, while the blue path meanders a lot more and is further inland.  A third, White Trail, then runs even further inland and branches off from the blue on its’ western end before cutting directly back to the river, bisecting both the yellow and blue trails as it does.  I followed the yellow out and a combination of the blue and white on the way back.



Among the first things I noticed starting out were the lush shades of green as I got closer to the river, and there were also some little spur paths which led right down to the water.  Speaking of which - the bridges I crossed over the Wolf River tributary streams in here (I think there were 3 of them) were pretty elaborate.  They looked more like the kind of steel bridges you see for vehicles to span rivers.


I met a very nice bike rider in this first section.  Some of the paths out here are multi-use while others are meant for hiking only, but most of the people I’d see today were either bikers or joggers.  I recall seeing 8 of the former and 3 of the latter in my 4 hours out here.  Anyway, I was told that I was really close to a river put-in.  In fact, there was one right in this park!  He also mentioned an outfitter which offered canoe and kayak rentals further up the river.


Anyway, before I’d even had time to fully acclimate to my surroundings I was put on notice as to how much the scenery was going to change today when I passed through a short section which had been cut right through the forest.  It appeared to extend all the way down to the river and it looked like it might be an area which was still being farmed.  I’d pass by some more areas like this later in the day.


Reentering the woods I came across a great spot at which there was a nice park bench set up down by the river.




…and check out this beetle I nearly stepped on – it was huge!



As I continued to meander along, I just kind of immersed myself in things as I lost all track of time taking pictures of the river.  There are just so many pleasant scenes out here!  Soon I came to a somewhat confusing point at which it looked like you could go about 5 directions.  I kept as far right as possible knowing that the river was in this direction, and soon found that the trail ended at what looked like a road they were in the process of building. 


Anyway, I went back to the intersection and this time followed the blue path in the same direction (west).  This too, soon met up with this road.  Unlike the yellow path, however, it kept going a little further before it ended at yet a different road.  Guess what, though? I’d found my boat ramp!  The road ended right at it.  The Walnut Grove Bridge also goes over the river here.  It looks like you can park under it, but the problem today was that the boat ramp was totally mired in river mud.  I would have had to walk my kayak through about 5 yards of it, maybe a foot deep.  …and this was the kind of mud that if you stepped down into it, it would keep your shoe!


I turned and walked the other direction on the road to see what I could see…  Not much.  I was walking almost directly along Walnut Grove, a pretty main thoroughfare, and I stopped at the point at which I’d reached what I think was a kind of dirt bike track.  I headed back to the trails.  Having decided to do something different on the return, I took the blue with the intention of following it back to the car.


Starting out I barely missed stepping over this toad…




…and I’m constantly amazed by the incredible intricacy of little plants!  Life forms such awesome patterns!



Now as mentioned, I had been content to just take the Blue Trail all the way back, but when I intersected the White Trail which went through what the sign called the Lucious Burch, Jr. Natural Area, I had to at least check it out.  Maybe it would connect back up with the blue, and maybe not, but I couldn’t resist.  This particular area was supposed to be open only to hikers, and it first led me through some of the densest area yet along a little ridgetop.  Later, I found myself skirting alongside a little lake.  I’ll tell ya…  Lakes, rivers, farmland…  There sure is quite a bit out here!




Passing the lake I came to another trail intersection where a path cut directly through north to south.  Turns out, this white path actually heads right here and leads directly to the river, but I first went north (left) a little way to check it out.  Doing so, I almost immediately came to a point at which there was another wide open area of farmland on either side of me and 2 more trails – one leading east and one west - went through this.  Figuring that this could get a bit confusing, I headed back the other way.  I’d get some more nice farmland views very soon…


When I met up with the green path which went over one of those metal bridges I talked about, I turned left onto it and soon the forest took on a completely different feel.  At one point I even seemed to go right into what looked like a green cave!



In yet another location I got some more of those great farmland views I was talking about earlier.  This trail goes directly along the back line of one of these and it’s almost as if you’re walking through it.



All of this provided for a nice grand finale to the hike, because I was soon right back where I’d started.  This is an odd feeling sometimes.  I wouldn’t say it’s anticlimactic, exactly, but it seemingly brings to a simple conclusion something which had seemed to be quite a bit more complicated - kind of like a complex knot that it takes a simple twist of the twine to undo.


And to think that I’d started off wanting to kayak today...  What a great park I might have missed!






This park is in the northwest sector of the Germantown Road/Wolf River Boulevard intersection, and the entrance to it is on the north side of the bridge over the Wolf River on Germantown Road.  Head west on this and it’ll immediately dead end.  Go left and follow it all the way all back to the parking lot.  The trails start on the south side of the parking lot behind the port-a-john.  I took a right to start this one.