Roan Mountain State Park is known for its grassy balds and natural rhododendron gardens.

Tennessee State Parks Celebrate 75 Years

How many state parks have I visited? A whole bunch over the last half century, but that’s just two-thirds of the time Tennessee’s park system has been in service.

I moved to Tennessee in 1965 and immediately began wetting my hooks at Montgomery Bell State Park. The lake at the lodge was an easy place to fish without a boat.

After 75 years, Tennessee’s award-winning state parks are celebrating their diamond anniversary with 75 events this year – and we’re all invited to join the festivities.

Intended to protect our state’s premier natural, cultural and historic sites for future generations, the seeds for Tennessee’s state park system were planted as the National Park Service was being formed during the early 1900s and came to fruition in 1937.

Programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration designed to create jobs for the unemployed during the Great Depression provided labor to build trails, cabins and classic stone structures like the bridge at Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville.

Each of our 54 parks is a treasure in its own right, allowing us to reconnect with our history and enjoy the outdoors from the shores of the Big Muddy Mississippi River in the west to towering Roan Mountain in the east. Most of us are within an hour’s drive of one of our parks but once you arrive it can seem a world away.

In addition to camping, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and generally enjoying the outdoors experience, this summer there are opportunities to learn more about butterflies with naturalists on June 23 at Reelfoot Lake.

See the beauty of wildflowers in their natural settings during  Reelfoot Lake’s pontoon boat water garden tour on July 21 or during an easy sunset stroll through Couchville Glade near Nashville on August 25.

Enjoy the mystery of history? Check out Fort Loudoun‘s Emissaries of Peace, a two-day program being held June 23-24 featuring the visit of Lt. Henry Timberlake to the Cherokee during 1762. Or learn about the actions of the Overmountain men during the American Revolution presented during an outdoor drama at Sycamore Shoals Thursday – Saturday, July 12 – 14, 19 – 21, & 26 – 28. The history and culture of the Cherokee people is highlighted during Red Clay’s 30th Annual Cherokee Days of Recognition on August 4 & 5.

Sounds of bluegrass will fill the air at Big Ridge during the 30th annual bluegrass festival August 17 & 18.

All eyes turn to the skies during Fall Creek Falls’ astronomy weekends on June 22 & 23, July 20 & 21 and August 17 & 18.

Fridays in July are perfect for sunset pontoon trips at Natchez Trace State Park. Or enjoy paddling down a gentle stretch of the scenic Duck River suitable for beginners during a four-hour canoe float trip scheduled for July 28. Bring your own or rent a canoe and equipment through a local vendor.

Test your endurance on August 18 at Fall Creek Falls in a triathlon with a 1.5k swim followed by a 40k bike ride and a 10k run. If you’re still raring to go, there’s a second 10k run on Saturday morning.

On August 26 Long Hunter hosts the 8th Annual Lost Loon Triathlon with nine miles of biking, two miles of canoeing and four miles of running/walking. This laid-back competition is usually more about having a good time along the way than arriving in first place.

But if you’re up for a three or seven-day bike ride, check out the 23rd Tennessee State Parks Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee beginning September 8 at Cumberland Mountain State Park.

For many more interesting 75th anniversary events and details, visit the brand spanking new site just for the occasion:

How are you celebrating Tennessee State Parks’ 75th birthday?

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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