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Your Guide to Montgomery Bell State Park

I had a splendid time revisiting Montgomery Bell State Park last weekend. A couple of years ago I attended an outdoor writers conference here and I used to fish the lakes fairly often when my children were young – it’s a terrific place for families.

All of our state parks offer something different but all give you something extra special out of doors.

Montgomery Bell State Park offers many reasons to head outdoors from hiking and fishing to mountain biking, birding, orienteering and golfing. The 3,850-acre park is the namesake of a young capitalist from Pennsylvania who operated a successful iron works company in the area during the early 1800s.

An uneven gravel road lined with wildflowers, blooming redbud trees, cedar and mixed hardwoods leads to Lake Woodhaven, one of three scenic lakes offering canoeing, kayaking and fishing at the park. The drive ends in a gravel parking lot with a paved boat ramp.

Electric trolling motors or paddles are the order of the day on all lakes (no gasoline motors are allowed on any boat). You can rent a boat on Lake Acorn between Memorial Day and Labor Day and Creech Hollow Lake does not have a ramp but is suitable for canoes and kayaks.

On an unusually warm spring afternoon with two days of winter remaining, I watched a family with three small and very eager children prepare to launch kayaks. A pair of resident Canada geese on the bank held the attention of the youngsters while mom and dad readied their gear, but I was keeping a sharp eye out for anyone catching largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill or shellcracker.

Rather than wetting a line, I decided to enjoy some crispy fried catfish from the big buffet at the restaurant in the 120-room state park inn that overlooks Lake Acorn. If you prefer you can prepare your catch, stay at one of eight two-bedroom villas or 121 campsites, most sites have water and electrical hookups.

For a camping experience that’s a bit more on the wild side, get a free permit for one of the park’s three backpacking shelters along the 10.8 mile Overnight Trail. The raucous call of the barred owl might sound more like you’re in a deep, dark jungle, but you are really only about 10 miles from downtown Dickson.

Whether you choose to pit your skill against 20 miles of dirt mountain bike trails or try your hand at one of the two compass, or orienteering courses, you’ll be seeing Middle Tennessee from a fresh perspective.

For a different type of challenge, hit the heavily wooded Frank G. Clement eighteen-hole golf course. Your first obstacle will be finding a spot in the parking lot of this popular course but once you’re settled in you’ll find a pro shop with golf accessories and equipment, rental carts and a concession stand.

Naturalists have spotted more than 50 species of butterflies along the lakeshores, wet meadows, hiking trails and edges of woodlands. Eighty species of birds songbirds, warblers, tanagers, sparrows, finches, birds of prey, woodpeckers, flycatchers, great blue herons and Canada geese have been reported as well.

Call (800-250-8613 ) the week before you plan to visit to learn about special naturalist-led programs available to introduce you to Montgomery Bell State Park that range from guided canoe trips to edible plants and aquatic ecosystems.

When was the last time you visited a state park? If you like the outdoors, I guarantee you’ll find something to love at Tennessee’s state parks. You can get a preview at tnstateparks.com.

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



    Samantha Crespo

    Vernon, Montgomery Bell was our first camping trip of the season last year and the source of such good memories: It was the first time our young daughter walked an entire trail without mom or dad carrying her at all! (I believe it was the Ore Pit Loop, leading to the beautiful old church located inside the park.) The proximity to Nashville was a perk for us too — we drove in to explore the city one afternoon. Thanks for writing about such a gem of a park.

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