The topography, geology, hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife of the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) provide a complex and intricate array of resources that directly impact land stewardship and use decisions. The combination of a large land area with complex physical characteristics and diverse natural resources has provided a critical foundation for supporting the environmental research mission of the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as providing space in which to build leading-edge experimental facilities.
The ORR encompasses 33,114 acres (13,401 ha) of federally owned land containing three DOE installations. It is located in Roane and Anderson Counties in east Tennessee, mostly within the corporate limits of the city of Oak Ridge. Its north and east border is the population center of the city of Oak Ridge, while the Clinch River/Melton Hill Lake impoundment forms its south and west border.
The ORR lies in the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province and is relatively pristine when compared with the surrounding region. From the air the ORR is clearly a large and nearly continuous island of forest within a landscape that is fragmented by urban development and agriculture. This distinctiveness is easily seen in a land-use/land-cover map of the ORR and surrounding lands that was developed based on satellite imagery from 2006.
Following the acquisition of the land comprising the ORR in the early 1940s for the Manhattan Project, much of the Reservation served as a buffer for the three primary facilities: the X-10 nuclear research facility (now known as Oak Ridge National Laboratory [ORNL]), the first uranium enrichment facility or Y-12 (now known as the Y-12 National Security Complex [Y-12 Complex]), and a gaseous diffusion enrichment facility (now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park [ETTP]). Over the past 60 years, this relatively undisturbed area has evolved into a rich and diverse eastern deciduous forest ecosystem of streams and reservoirs, hardwood forests, and extensive upland mixed forests.
More information about the attributes of the ORR can be found in a report on Oak Ridge Reservation Physical Characteristics and Natural Resources.