Visit Johnsonville State Park for History and Hiking
Looking for some fall fun?
Johnsonville State Historic Park, located on the eastern shore of Kentucky Lake, hosts a couple of very interesting walking tours on Nov. 3-4. On Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m., Johnsonville State Park Manager Jerry Wooten will lead a walking tour commemorating the 148th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Johnsonville. Cannon and infantry musket firing demonstrations take place from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Or rise and shine to join Tennessee State Parks Naturalist Randy Hedgepath at 9 a.m. as he shares decades of experience and extensive knowledge about Tennessee’s natural wonders during a nature and wildlife hike through some of the park’s 2,000 acres.
My previous knowledge of Johnsonville was largely focused on fishing trips through the years to this part of Kentucky Lake for my wife’s favorite panfish, crappie. But there are plenty of tasty catfish swimming around too. Mmm…makes my mouth water just thinking about it!
When I visited Johnsonville State Historic Park last week to learn about its fascinating history, I was pleased to see a promising bunch of stake beds along the shoreline near the remains of the old Nashville and Northwestern Railroad.
The visit started out in the sparkling brand new Welcome Center just off US 70 in New Johnsonville where Meriam Tummons suggested starting with an award-winning movie shown in the auditorium. It was an excellent idea since the movie easily and quickly transported viewers to conditions during late 1864.
The Union army had taken control of Nashville during February 1862. Nashville was an ideal base of operations with its location on the Cumberland River, plus railroad and road connections. Everything from coffee, beans and salt pork to guns and ammunition was sent overland from Nashville to supply General William T. Sherman’s 100,000 troops in the Deep South.
A dry summer and fall left steamboats unable to reach Nashville. Confederate attacks on trestles, tunnels and bridges on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad turned Nashville into an unreliable supply depot by any route. Plan B turned out to be building a supply river depot at Lucas Landing, a regular steamboat whistle stop on the Tennessee River that later became known as Johnsonville.
The story of freedmen and escaped slaves forced into labor by the Union to extend the railroad from Kingston Springs to Johnsonville, the role of soldiers of the United States Colored Troops, and the amazing tale of a naval force engaging and being defeated by a cavalry is filled with so many twists and turns that you’ll just have to come see for yourself.
After leaving the visitor center and museum, it’s a 2.5-mile drive to the historic sites and the community named for Tennessee’s Military Governor Andrew Johnson. The Tennessee Valley Authority dammed the Tennessee River during the 1940s creating Kentucky Lake and sinking the remains of the Union depot landing and the town of Johnsonville. Many of the Johnsonville families moved nearby in today’s community of New Johnsonville.
Just beyond entrance to the day use area, scenic hiking trails, portions of the road bed for the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad and preserved sections of the lower fort, or redoubt, are marked along the paved roads nearest the shoreline and lower picnic area.
Another paved road leads uphill to the left and the upper fort, or redoubt, breastworks (or rifle pit), more hiking trails, picnic tables and an overlook of the western shore of Kentucky Lake.
There are special events scheduled throughout the year at Johnsonville, but if you visit Nov. 3 and 4, you may want to also check out activities scheduled the same weekend at two other Civil War sites in the vicinity, Parker’s Crossroads and Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park.
For more information about this historic Tennessee treasure, call Johnsonville State Historic Park at 931-535-2789 or read more here.