Step Back in Time at Henry Horton State Park
Laughter drifts up as I stroll down the Duck River Blueway access at Henry Horton State Park. As they say, if you can’t beat ‘em you might as well kick your shoes off and join’em, splashing in the shallows and cooling on a hot day.
The Duck River is a pastoral stream meandering almost 270 miles. An eight-mile canoe trip from the park takes you by scenic bluffs, diverse wildlife and historic areas. The river flows over gravel bars, around islands and along bottomlands. The park’s river access is a popular one for those who want an easy, pretty journey. You can join a ranger-led float trip by calling 931-364-2222.
Bring your own water craft or rent one at a nearby canoe livery. They do a brisk business from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and some liveries will schedule an out-of-season trip for you.
Free flowing for much of its length, the Duck River also attracts anglers pursuing largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bream, red-eye and catfish. There are plenty of places to fish from the bank.
Henry Horton State Park offers RV and primitive camping along the river. If you prefer creature comforts, stay in one of eight cabins or 72 units in the inn. Whether picnicking along the river, hiking, shooting skeet, swimming or golfing on an 18-hole championship course, there’s so much to see and do within the park’s 1,140 acres.
The park on U.S. Alt. 31, less than an hour drive southwest of Nashville, was developed on land once owned by Henry Horton, Tennessee’s governor from 1927 to 1933. During the late 1700s early settlers crossed the Duck River here at what was then known as Fishing Ford. During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson used the ford to march his soldiers south to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the Battle of New Orleans. The land had been in Horton’s wife’s family, the Wilhoites, since 1845.
Today rusting metal gear works and log-and-stone piers seen along the one-mile Wilhoite Mill Trail remind visitors of those days gone by. A kiosk with old photographs and the local history stands on the north side of the river at the trailhead for Wilhoite and the new River Trail. Along with The Wild Turkey and Hickory Ridge Trails, all four are rated as easy.
It seems fitting that one of Henry Horton Park’s most popular annual events, Step Back In Time, shows how things were done back in the day. On September 13th, from 5-7 p.m., is a social with entertainment in the lobby of the inn celebrating our state park system’s 75th Anniversary.
The main events occur September 14th and 15th when there will be re-enactors in period costumes, old-timey country and bluegrass music-making, blacksmithing, broom making, chair weaving and demonstrators firing flint lock rifles and throwing spears with atlatls. The atlatl, a device used thousands of years ago by Native American hunters, increases the projectile’s velocity and distance. Come give it try.
You may lose yourself in the maze spelling “75th” cut into a large field of native grasses to celebrate the anniversary but save enough strength for the hay bale toss, cross-cut sawing and the annual watermelon seed spitting contest. It may prove to be a pretty serious competition if the three-time champion returns to defend his 30-foot spit.
Farm animals in the petting zoo are likely to be almost as popular as vendors who will offer homemade goods and fresh barbeque. A trackless train with carts will be available to carry folks around to the events and vendors.
5K and 10K races start at 7 a.m. Saturday morning with entry fees benefitting the Hunters for the Hungry program of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. The program is active statewide but race entry fees will be used to help pay for processing venison donated by sportsmen and women to hunger relief programs in Marshall County.
It’s time to plan for the annual event so you don’t miss a thing.