This heavily forested, 3,687-acre park lies on the southern shore of Norris Lake. One of five demonstration parks developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park is named for the rugged, rocky line of ridges that touches at least three counties and is bisected by the Clinch River. While only accessible by foot from the developed areas of the park, the ridge looms over the "Loyston Sea" area of Norris Lake.
Before the park, self-sufficient farm families lived a simple life here in small cabins, making their own clothing and quilts and growing their own food. Today, 11 miles of hiking trails mainly follow the former county roads, allowing glimpses of the old communities. The beach and boat rentals are on Big Ridge Lake, a 49 acre spring fed sub-impound of Norris Lake. The swim beach, built by the CCC, featured heavily in the posters and advertising of the 1940s and 1950s.
The structures on the park reflect the craftsmanship and stonework of the CCC, and along the trails you may see remnants of the homes and farms that existed here prior to the birth of the TVA. Other notable features of the park include: the Norton Gristmill built in 1825, remnants of Sharp's Station Fort construction in the late 1700's, and Indian Rock, where a plaque commemorates the death of Peter Graves, a settler of Sharp's Station who was killed by Indians.
The Young Dan'l Boone television series was filmed here in the late 1970s, and country music superstar Kenny Chesney worked here as a lifeguard. The book Ghosts and Haunts of the Appalachian Foothills, (Rutledge Press, 1993) describes park visitors of a different kind. The Ghost House hikes in October remain one of the park's most popular annual events, along with an Easter egg hunt and the August Bluegrass Music Festival.
Bicycles are welcome on the park's roads and parking areas, but not on the trails. Bicycle riders under 16 years of age must wear a helmet.
Enjoy lake fishing year round anywhere from the shore of Big Ridge Lake except the swimming beach. Expect to catch a variety of fish such as bluegill, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and crappie. The boat dock at Big Ridge park is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Canoe, paddleboat and rowboat rentals are available on the 49-acre Big Ridge Lake. Visitors may use their own electric trolling motors on park rowboats. Gasoline outboards are not allowed on Big Ridge Lake. Fishing boats, ski boats and wave runners can be launched at the boat ramp on Norris Lake. No access to boat ramp at Norris Lake during winter months.
State license required for individuals between 13 and 65 years of age.
Over 15 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to very rugged. Trails travel along dry ridges, lush hollows, old roadbeds, lakeshores, and beside cemeteries and remnants of early settlements. Hiking is the only activity allowed on trails. Trails are open year round and overnight camping is allowed on designated backcountry campsites by permit only.
Canoe, paddleboat, and rowboat rentals are available on 49-acre Big Ridge Lake. The boat dock is open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Please call the park office for specific hours of operation. Visitors may use their own electric trolling motors on park rowboats. Gasoline engines are not permitted on Big Ridge Lake. Fishing boats, ski boats, and wave runners can be launched at the boat ramp on Norris Lake. No access to boat ramp on Norris Lake during winter months.
Overnight backcountry camping is allowed at three designated campsites. Backcountry camping is free, but a permit is required. Pets on a leash are allowed. Pack animals are prohibited.
Our gift shop is located inside the park office/visitor's center, and is open during office hours.
The park offers sand volleyball, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, basketball court and softball field. A new wheelchair accessible playground is located next to the park office and offers play experiences for children of all ages and abilities. Big Ridge offers many activities including: badminton, basketball, horseshoes, playground, softball, tennis Courts (2 courts, no lights), volleyball (2 sand courts, one at the swimming beach) and board games. All equipment may be checked out at the park office/interpretive center at no charge.
The park has 19 one-bedroom rustic cabins available from April 1 through October 31 capable of accommodating six persons. Bedrooms contain two double beds and a sofa sleeper in the living room. Cabins have hardwood floors and screened-in porches. There is no air-conditioning. Five cabins are located on the lakeside. Fourteen sit on the ridge. Cabins are fully equipped with linens stove, refrigerator kitchen hardware and grill. Fireplace is available and firewood is provided seasonally. There are no televisions or phones. Please call for our pet policy. Reservations may be made through the park office or you may make Big Ridge Cabin Reservations online.
Accommodating up to 120 people, the group camp has 18 screened-in bunkhouses, sleeping six to eight each. The group camp is open from April 1 through October 31 and reservations are required. The dining hall contains a commercial kitchen facility. The group camp includes two bathhouses with hot shower facilities. No linens are provided. No RVs or tents are allowed at the group camp.
Check back soon for more events, or visit our event page for events in other parks.
Visitors to Big Ridge will find activities to meet any interest, including historic structures, guided nature tours and backcountry camping.
Among the rugged farmers and craftsmen living her before the park, Tink McCoy used timbers from the surrounding forest to build the “overshot” gristmill in 1825. The mill, fed by Lyon’s Spring Branch, was also a social center for the area’s residents who hauled their corn there for grinding. The mill standing in the park today is actually a replica built in 1968, but the millstones and raceway, which was dug by hand and mule-drawn scoop, are original.
Sharp’s Station Fort protected families in the settlement built on lands ceded by the Cherokee in the Holston Treaty of 1791. In 1794, Indians attacked and killed Peter Graves and later attacked the fort itself. Sharp is the first person buried in the Sharp’s Station Cemetery.
In the early 1800’s, John Loy established a nearby foundry, which grew into the town of Loyston. When TVA built Norris Dam in the 1930s, 2,841 families and 5,226 graves were relocated. The entire town of Loyston, 20 miles upstream from the dam, was entirely flooded.
Canoe, paddleboat, and rowboat rentals are available on 49-acre Big Ridge Lake, a spring-fed sub-impound of Norris Lake. The boat dock is open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Unusual flora include small pockets of flame azalea, umbrella magnolia, and one or two mountain laurels, all of which generally prefer elevations higher than the park’s 1000-1500 feet.
1015 Big Ridge Park Rd.
Maynardville, TN 37807
Phone - Toll Free: 800-471-5305
From I-75, Exit 122, take Hwy 61 east for approximately 12 miles. Park entrance is on the left. The park is located between the cities of Andersonville and Maynardville.
Summer 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.------Winter 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.