While there are plenty of restaurants and music venues in Chattanooga, sometimes it’s nice to be around nature and wildlife. You can get the best of both city life and an escape to nature at these Chattanooga wildlife attractions. 


Chattanooga ZooTwo Rhesus monkeys sitting

Since the 1930’s, The Chattanooga Zoo has been a staple in the city. It all started with just with two Rhesus Monkeys. Now, it’s grown to not only house a variety of animals, but the zoo also has wildlife rehabilitation and conservation programs. Tickets are under $10, which makes the zoo a great outing even if you’re on a budget.


Tennessee AquariumTwo lemurs in an exhibit.

You could spend the entire day (or two!) at the aquarium if you wanted to. There are two buildings to explore: River Journey and Ocean Journey. River Journey was the original building and hosts freshwater species, some of which come from the Chattanooga area. Ocean Journey has a great range of animals from penguins to lemurs.


Hiwassee Wildlife RefugeCrane landing in marsh.

During the summer, the water and land in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge are open to the public. Migrating birds stop in the area, making it perfect for bird-watching. During the winter, migrating waterfowl, particularly cranes, like to stop in at the refuge. While at the refuge, you can also participate in water paddling, fishing and licensed hunting.


Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature CenterEndangered red wolf laying down.

This nature center offers a variety of activities in-site, like hiking and paddling. They also care for around 40 animals native to the east Tennessee area. All of these animals have been affected by development in a way that wouldn’t allow them to survive in the wild on their own. They also care for red wolves, the 8th most endangered mammal in the world. The animals are part of Reflection Riding’s educational programs for children and adults alike.


Chattanooga Audubon SocietyBlue heron spreading its wings.

In 1944, Robert Sparks Walker founded the Chattanooga Audubon Society so he could protect his family farm. This has been transformed into Audubon Acres. Audubon Acres now hosts four wildlife sanctuaries: Elise Chapin Sanctuary, Maclellan Island, David Gray Sanctuary, and Mackey Branch Wetlands. Maclellan Island in particular is great for wildlife lovers, with a Great-Blue Heron rookery and Osprey nesting platforms. No matter which sanctuary you choose to visit, you’re bound to find an experience that you’d never find if you just stayed in the city.  


Text by Katherine Polcari