It’s enticing greenery beckons you from the Walnut Street Bridge, daring you to grab a paddleboard, for the only way to this island is via boat - a perfect symbol of the spirit of adventure so inherent in the Chattanooga ethos.
Yes! You can visit Maclellan Island
Maclellan Island is an 18.8-acre island turned wildlife sanctuary that unfurls beneath the Veterans Memorial Bridge. It has incredible geography and history, including a Great Heron Rookery, rain shadow desert created by the bridge, and fossils dating back almost 13,000 years. It is only accessible by boat (see our Guide for paddling over!).
Wildlife on Maclellan Island
Currently, Maclellan Island is home to herons, geese, turkeys, muskrats, and otters and often sees over-nighting humans as it is available to rent through the Chattanooga Audubon Society as a campsite. But the Island has had many different residents and visitors over the years.
History of Maclellan Island
Its earliest inhabitants were Native Americans from the historic Cherokee settlement of Citico, located in an area now covered by Tellico Lake. Fossils found by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during a 1983 systematic survey indicate that people have inhabited the island for thousands of years.
In the mid-1800s, Thomas Crutchfield registered the island as “Ross’s Landing Island,” and it served as an anchor point for a “swing ferry” or cable ferry that transported goods between the North Shore and Ross’s landing.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the island was utilized as farmland for crops and cattle, because of its extremely fertile soil. During this era, several floods inundated Chattanooga, completely covering Maclellan Island, and washing away the livestock or crops cultivated there.
The island is named for the Maclellan Family, whose most prominent member, Thomas Maclellan, solidified his place in the Chattanooga consciousness when he founded the Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company, later called Unum. His son, Robert, purchased the island in the early 1900s and donated the land to the Chattanooga Audubon Society in 1954.
Hidden in Plain Sight
History Blog Series
Chattanooga's history is everywhere! Welcome to a blog series delving into the intriguing historical gems scattered around Chattanooga. Explore the stories that make up this city’s rich past and form its culture of today.