Kingston’s a Tennessee Town on the Move
Consider Kingston the town that walks.
If you enjoy a stroll by the river on a crisp Sunday afternoon or perhaps an invigorating hike through the foothills of East Tennessee, this small city in Roane County just west of Knoxville might be your choice.
Kingston with a population of around 6,000 people has always persuaded its residents to get outside and enjoy lake and mountain scenery. Community leaders wisely made use of the shores of Watts Bar Lake to create enjoyable places to walk and wander.
The newest one is the Ladd Landing Greenway, which even on the chilly day I recently went held its share of people. The wide, paved trail, dedicated in November, can get you back in the woods in a hurry. It starts at Ladd Delaney Park at the confluence of the Clinch and Emory rivers off Highway 58 north of Interstate 40. A short walk leads away from the river and soon I was trekking through the hardwood forest. The climb is gradual, not challenging. Traffic noise quickly dissipates, replaced by plenty of quiet interrupted only by an occasional squirrel jumping through the leaves.
I saw some wildlife, but other walkers told me they have spotted sometimes more than a dozen deer along the way. People seem to love this greenway. One walker told me she has done the nearly four-mile round-trip twice a day since it opened. A couple explained to me how a short walk off the trail and up a gravel road leads to the top of a ridge and an awesome view. The view along the greenway was fine enough for me.
After the hike, take a break for lunch at an eatery like Gibson Girls Southern Goodies in the historic downtown. The tea room and bakery is housed in an antebellum home and serves soups and sandwiches. Another nice place is RedBones on the River, which gives you a great view of the lake.
A three-mile walkway rims Watts Bar Lake through the city. By the way, technically Kingston isn’t on Watts Bar Lake but on the Clinch River, which flows into Watts Bar, but locals are more prone to call it the lake because it’s plenty wide. And, while we’re on the subject, the official name of the lake greenway is the Betty Brown Memorial Walkway, but locals call it simply the Riverwalk.
I started that walk at Fort Southwest Point, where the rebuilt blockhouse, barracks and palisade make the park worth a visit. It is the only frontier fort in Tennessee reconstructed on its original site. From there I strolled across a small bridge where a couple dozen ducks quacked looking for handouts and the beautiful view of the lake unfolded. Again, people were enjoying a walk, sometimes taking a break on one of the benches to listen to the water lap up on the shore. This walkway has been around awhile and I can tell some people make this exercise a daily ritual. The path goes all the way through Kingston City Park.
I also suggest meandering through downtown Kingston, where the dignified Roane County Courthouse dominates over law offices and shops. A stone monument commemorates the fact that this small city was actually the state capital for a day. On Sept. 21, 1807, the state legislature convened in Kingston before adjourning to reconvene two days later in Knoxville. The Old Roane County Courthouse, built in 1855 in the Federalist and Greek Revivalist styles, is a testament to the rich history of the area. Owned by the Roane County Heritage Commission, the red-brick structure serves as the Roane County Museum.
Watts Bar, a 39,000-acre lake with many boaters and jet skiers in the summer, has a quieter profile in winter. Small fishing boats ply the waters and people find sanctuary in private homes and rental cabins, available through Tennessee Lakefront Cottages.
Whitestone Country Inn serves as a perfect getaway from the winter blahs. Guests follow 8 miles of walking trails along the shores of Watts Bar Lake and across the 360-acre property. People can rejuvenate at the spa and salon and enjoy fine dining at the on-site restaurant. The spa and restaurant are open to day visitors, in addition to overnight guests.
The luxury inn is a AAA Four-Diamond property and a member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection. Also, Whitestone is one of Tennessee’s leading wedding and honeymoon destinations. A chapel and a lakefront gazebo serve bridal couples seeking pastoral settings for their ceremonies.
Have you visited Kingston? What are your recommendations?