Experience Norris Dam State Park this November
The ducks have the right idea. Norris Lake is the place to be in the fall.
I join them on the water this Sunday when I took a pontoon boat ride on Norris Lake.
Rangers at Norris Dam State Park guide pontoon boat rides for two weeks in October so people like me can see the colors of the season from the water, just like the mallard ducks do. The one-hour tours depart from the Norris Dam Marina.
The children in our boating party are the first to notice the ducks. Ranger Allison Humble is eager to answer their questions as she navigates the boat away from the dock and toward the massive grey walls of the Norris Dam. She gives us a quick history of how and why the dam was built. The three-year construction project was completed in 1936. It was the first dam of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an agency established by Congress in 1933.
“Norris Lake is the cleanest and the deepest of the TVA lakes,” Allison says as she steers the boat toward the Cove Creek Wildlife Management Area. “Norris Lake has 800 miles of shoreline with 80-85% of it being on land owned by state or federal agencies.”
The bluegreen water sets off the glowing oranges and bright red foliage. “Maple, oak, hickory, and tulip poplar are the most commonly seen trees,” says Allison. Hues are most vivid along the shoreline.” The leaves turn quicker because of cool temperatures coming from the water. Cool crisp nights make a difference.” She predicts the colorful foliage will last only until early November.
Turkey vultures soar over a nearby bluff. She uses binoculars to locate great blue heron on the shoreline. “Five bald eagles have set up residence here,” she says. River otters live here too, sometimes cleaning their fish on the marina docks. We scan the shoreline for deer that sometimes slip out of the woods. Not today, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
In the distance, we can see the Cumberland Mountains wrapped in fog. The lake extends 56 miles up the Powell River and 72 miles up the Clinch River. After taking time to enjoy the mountains, we turn to head back to the marina, waving as we pass fishing boats. Maybe the fishermen are angling for bass, bluegill or stripper. Or maybe they are like us….simply enjoying the view.
Getting there: The marina is located about four miles from exit 128 off Interstate 75 along U.S. Highway 441. Some of the best coffee you will ever taste is available at the marina’s store.
From the marina, it is only a five-minute drive to other attractions in the state park. I opt to hear the mountain music being played at the Lenoir Museum Historical Complex. (Every Sunday afternoon; no admission fee). The good weather also encourages a picnic and hike. The 4,038-acre state park offers 15 miles of wooded trails, cabins and picnic areas. It adjoins TVA land that also features hiking trails and water access.
Read more on this beautiful Tennessee treasure here and let us know in the comments your favorite thing to do there.