When I moved to Cumberland County, TN, from Dallas, TX, 16 years ago, I considered Memphis the same as I thought El Paso. 

If you live in Dallas, El Paso is at the far western edge of the state, where you have no reason to go except it is halfway to Los Angeles. 

Here in East Tennessee, Memphis is at the far end of the state, where you have no reason to go except it is halfway to Dallas.  

Maybe I can give you a reason to go to Memphis.

This is a nature column, but this week I can only tell you about a few animals that Memphis has that you won’t see around here in East Tennessee. 

One animal that I would love to see is a western mud snake. These beautiful, rarely seen snakes have a bright red-and-black-patterned belly and are very shiny. 

They eat primarily just two things, amphiumas and lesser sirens. You have probably never heard of those two large aquatic salamanders, also not found around here.

Some other animals that you could find in far West Tennessee that we don’t have in Cumberland County are alligators, water moccasins, nutria, alligator snapping turtles, swamp rabbits and crayfish frogs. 

I didn’t see any of those animals because my trip was for business and sightseeing. So, that is as much Memphis nature as you will get this week.

Instead, I will give you some ideas if you decide to take a road trip to Memphis. Here are some things to see.

National Civil Rights Museum

The No. 1 place not to miss in Memphis, in my opinion, is the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot. 

We spent two and a half hours there and could have stayed longer. 

The informational displays and numerous short videos cover the complete history of civil rights in America. It is an excellent, very informative museum. 

This is a museum every American should see. 

You actually go through the motel room where MLK stayed and then go across the street to the boarding house and look out of the window where James Earl Ray fired the rifle.  

Sun Studios

In a fading section of town is Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis got their early recording starts. 

The 45-minute tour is very informative, and you will see the exact spot where that famous photo of Presley, Perkins, Cash and Lewis was taken. 

You can even sing into the same microphone that Elvis sang into.

Beale Street

I envisioned Beale Street in downtown Memphis like lower Broadway in Nashville, or Sixth St. in Austin. 

It’s not exactly. 

We walked the couple of blocks, but didn’t see any place inviting enough to go in. 

Someone told me, “Beale Street is not like it used to be.” 

I don’t know how it used to be, but it didn’t impress us these days.

Peabody Hotel

Every day at the Peabody Hotel, five mallard ducks walk from the elevator and across a red carpet to the fountain to swim the day away until their walk back at 5 p.m. 

Watching the action in the large, beautiful Peabody Hotel is free, but get there well ahead of duck walk time because it can be crowded.

Memphis pyramid 

You could visit the giant silver and glass Memphis pyramid, which was originally a sports arena but is now a Bass Pro shop with a hotel and restaurant on the higher floors. 

You can ride to the top for a small fee to look out over the city.

Nature-scapes

The Memphis Botanic Gardens and the nearby Dixon Gallery & Gardens are for plant lovers. The Memphis Zoo is for animal lovers. 

Unfortunately, our short two-day trip didn’t give time for either. 

We didn’t visit Graceland; it is not on my bucket list, even though it is probably on yours.

The drive to Memphis from here is about six hours with a stop for a short break or two. 

The road was in excellent shape the whole way. 

We live in Tennessee. It is probably good to get out and see the rest of the state once in a while. 

If you see a mud snake or an amphiuma, let me know. I’ll be envious.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com.

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