“In Overton Park you have saved the other chief characteristics of this region by preserving in the forest conditions of the virgin forest upon that property. Nowhere in the United States, except in the Pacific Northwest, will you find tree growth as luxuriant as in the Western Tennessee and Eastern Arkansas forests, and in the two hundred acres of virgin forest in Overton Park you have a property which, as a heritage to the public for the enjoyment of nature, equals in value the cost of the entire park system to the present time.” – George Kessler, landscape architect of Overton Park, in 1911
Overton Park’s Old Forest is one of Memphis’ finest treasures. An ecosystem dating back more than 10,000 years, it is a rare peek into what our area would have looked like before humans began developing it. Some trees in the forest are hundreds of years old, and the extremely diverse plant community supports a wide range of wildlife.
Originally a 200-acre tract when Overton Park was founded in 1901, the Old Forest now comprises 142 acres following losses to development over the years. In June 2011, 126 acres of the Old Forest were designated as a State Natural Area, permanently protecting it from future development and preserving its ecosystem. Overton Park Conservancy manages the Old Forest State Natural Area under the supervision of the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC) Division of Natural Areas.
The Old Forest contains four miles of unpaved walking paths, a 1.4-mile limestone running trail, and over a mile of paved trails. It is free and open to the public during Overton Park hours (dawn to dusk).
Natural Area Management Plan
In order to guide management decisions in the Old Forest, TDEC has prepared a management plan. If you would like to review the plan, click here.