Live That Marina Life in East Tennessee
East Tennessee lakes are perfect for summertime boating fun. This part of the state is lucky to have three state parks with full-service marinas.
The marina is in an enviably beautiful spot with historic Norris Dam, the first built by the Tennessee Valley Authority, to its right as you enter and a towering limestone cliff jutting from the water on its left. Osprey are said to nest in the trees high above.
The completely equipped commercial marina is located just 4 miles from Exit 128 off Interstate 75, making it very convenient to day trippers who are in a hurry to get on the water. It also serves visitors at the 4,038-acre state park. The park has campsites, a swimming pool, and miles of hiking trails. However, it is best known for the clean, clear water of Norris Lake, ideal for boating, skiing and fishing.
The Bardo family took over the marina about 16 months ago. Mark Bardo and his son, Brad Bardo, are owners and operators. Mark’s wife, Amy Bardo, comes down from their home in Kentucky on weekends to mind the store during the busy time. The family completely renovated the facilities, upgraded the store, and added a restaurant with patio and boat slips. The restaurant serves wings, hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches.
People are able to rent pontoon boats and speedboats for the day or week, and luxury houseboats for the week. The marina has close to 200 boat slips. About 50 people stay full-time through the warm months. “It’s a little community,” says Amy, who mentions summer residents frequently gather at the restaurant, especially for karaoke fun. We noticed lots of house boats with personal touches, such as lawn ornaments, signs, and lanterns.
The marina maintains that comfortable, “lake life” feel with flip-flops, sunglasses and T-shirts for sale, and the doors constantly swinging open for visitors in swimsuits or beach shorts.
“The marina stays busy through late October because of the lake’s beautiful fall foliage season,” says Amy.
Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards rentals are available on site from vendor John Marquis. He operates his business, Norris Paddling Adventures, and gives lessons near the boat launch ramp where the water is sheltered and calm. He also directs guided tours in the Cove Creek portion of the reservoir. People of all ages are eager to learn paddleboarding, says John, who used to be an outdoor guide with LL Bean in Freeport, Maine.
In addition to Norris Dam State Park, two other state parks in East Tennessee have marinas:
Harrison Bay State Park’s marina on Chickamauga Lake offers 161 covered slips, 28 uncovered slips and four sailboat slips. It also has a restaurant at the marina. The 1,200-acre state park lies north of Chattanooga.
Warriors’ Path State Park is located near Kingsport on the shores of TVA’s Patrick Henry Reservoir on the Holston River. It offers 54 uncovered slips, kayak and paddle boat rentals, and a snack bar.
In total, the state park system has seven marinas and 33 publicly available boat launch ramps. In East Tennessee, boat launch ramps are located at Big Ridge, Booker T. Washington, Cove Lake, Fort Loudoun, Harrison Bay, Indian Mountain, Norris Dam, Panther Creek and Warriors’ Path state parks.
Let us know your favorite spot to boat in Tennessee in the comments!