Norris Dam

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A Tennessee State Park Sampler

A Tennessee State Park Sampler

With more than 50 state parks across the state, Tennessee’s outdoor playgrounds provide countless opportunities to enjoy the state’s natural side, learn about its history or spend time relaxing.  Tennessee State Parks boast more than a thousand miles of trails, incredible natural features and a great deal of history.  While I haven’t visited all of Tennessee’s state parks, I do try to visit them whenever I can.  Here are a few you might want to check out.

Norris Dam was the first built by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of the New Deal.. Today, hundreds of acres on both sides of the dam form Norris Dam State Park, a place known for its rustic setting, history and recreational opportunities.

Norris Dam was the first built by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of the New Deal.. Today, hundreds of acres on both sides of the dam form Norris Dam State Park, a place known for its rustic setting, history and recreational opportunities.

Norris Dam State Park  

Norris Lake has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and most picturesque lakes in the Southeast.  Norris Dam State Park which is located along the shores of this pristine lake is a great place for a vacation, a day trip or a weekend getaway.  There are two campgrounds in the park along with both modern and rustic cabins for guests to spend the night.  You can enjoy the outdoors on one of the 15 trails in the park or get out and enjoy the waters of Norris Lake on a boat or jet ski.  

While natural beauty provides much of the charm at Norris Dam State Park, history and mountain culture are other great reasons to visit. The Lenoir Museum in the park features an in depth look at local history and it’s also a great venue for live music. The 18th Century Grist Mill and the nearby Threshing Barn are also popular attractions.

 Cove Lake State Park and Big Ridge State Park are the two other state parks on the shores of Norris Lake. Both are about 30 minutes from Norris Dam State Park.

The British built the original Fort Loudoun. Today, the replica of the fort is the centerpiece of a living history park sits along the shores of Tellico Lake with the Great Smoky Mountains off in the distance.

The British built the original Fort Loudoun. Today, the replica of the fort is the centerpiece of a living history park sits along the shores of Tellico Lake with the Great Smoky Mountains off in the distance.

 Ft. Loudoun State Historical Park  

History and nature come together in a dramatic way at this park located along the shore of Tellico Lake. Long before TVA created the lake, the free-flowing Tennessee River provided the perfect place for the British to build an outpost in the early American frontier.  Today, a replica of the fort sits near the site of the original one.  While it would be easy to just get caught up in the views of the lake and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains, this park is best known for its ability to tell the story of the British soldiers and their interaction with the Cherokee tribe.  

While at the park, be sure and check out the schedule for the monthly Garrison weekends where the park brings history to life.  You should also pay a visit to the newly renovated Sequoyah Birthplace Museum nearby, a park owned and operated by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians

In the summer, adventure seekers flock to Great Falls at Rock Island State Park to experience the rush of the water and to leap from the rocky ledge into the great pool of water below.

In the summer, adventure seekers flock to Great Falls at Rock Island State Park to experience the rush of the water and to leap from the rocky ledge into the great pool of water below.

 Rock Island State Park 

This park along Tennessee’s Highland Rim treats guest to amazing waterfalls, a majestic river gorge and a beach. The Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky Rivers all come together in Rock Island State Park and along with help from a couple of dams, you never know just what to expect from the water features there.  Great Falls is the biggest of the waterfalls.  While you can enjoy this 30-foot high horseshoe shaped waterfall from an overlook near the park entrance, dozens of people wander into the gorge to get a bit closer. Some people choose to leap from the waterfalls edge into the  pool of water below.  

Twin Falls,  a bit further down river, is the result of water seeping through the rocks from the lake on the other side of the ridge.  And if you like your water a little slower, just head over to the park’s beach and relax in the headwaters of Center Hill Lake.

Fall Creek Falls

 Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park

A 256 foot high waterfall is the major draw to what many consider to be the crowning jewel in the Tennessee State Park system.  However, Fall Creek Falls itself is far from the only reason to visit this 26,000 acre state park on the Cumberland Plateau.   Cane Creek Falls, Cane Creek Cascades and Piney Falls are all easily accessible (and equally beautiful) waterfalls in the park.  

A small lake and a scenic drive through the Caney and Piney Creek “gulfs” round out the seemingly countless opportunities to enjoy nature at its best. Campgrounds and cabins are available for lodging and a new Inn expected to open in 2020.

Learn more about Tennessee State Parks at tnstateparks.com or check out these other blog posts about Tennessee State Parks.

Standing Stone Rustic State Park

Waterfalls Frozen in Time

Bicentennial State Park

State Park Gems in Middle Tennessee

State Park Gems in Middle Tennessee

Christmas in East Tennessee

Christmas in East Tennessee