No Shortage of Fun at Long Hunter State Park
Long Hunter State Park on the shores of J. Percy Priest Lake east of Nashville is the place to relieve the doldrums of summer’s dog days.
I’ve enjoyed fishing and swimming in Percy Priest a zillion times over the last four decades. From this 14,200-acre impoundment on the Stones River, I’ve caught everything from bass to bream, from catfish to stripers. I’ve fished around Long Hunter State Park but haven’t hit Couchville Lake that’s the heart of the state park.
The 110-acre Couchville Lake connects underground with Percy Priest and contains the same fish species. What it lacks is the noise and turbulent water caused by fast boats with giant motors. You can use an electric trolling motor or paddles.
You may rent a canoe from the park or bring your own small boat to Couchville Lake – a craft that doesn’t require a launching ramp for there is none.
Judging from the number of young and not-so-young anglers wetting lines at the large easily accessible pier on Couchville Lake the fishing is good.
The park contains four distinct areas within its 2,600 acres including the water front on Percy Priest Lake, Couchville Lake, nine trails, Bakers Grove with primitive camping available, and Bryant Grove Recreation Area with many amenities including boat rentals.
Although fishing usually tops my list of water sports, it is not the only activity at Long Hunter. Hiking trails of varying lengths lead through the hardwood forest, cedar glades and interesting geologic features around the lake including the two-mile barrier free Lake Trail with good views of the 110-acre Couchville Lake and plenty of shade.
Hikers and mountain bikers are rewarded with a grand view of the lake from Bald Knob on the Jones Mill trail in Bryant Grove. Take a dip at the lakeshore swim beach, enjoy a picnic and keep your eyes peeled for wild life.
Longer day hikes on the Day Loop Trail and two overnight back country camp sites at the end of the 5.5-mile Volunteer Trail are offered at the Bakers Grove Primitive Use Area.
Also part of Long Hunter is the Sellars Farm near Lebanon. This was the site of a village thought to have been occupied by Native Americans between 900 A.D. and about 1500 A.D. A one-mile loop trail encircles the main mound and several smaller mounds that look like small naturally occurring hills covered with trees near Spring Creek but each was built one basket full of dirt at a time.
Evidence suggests Native Americans came to rich hunting grounds near present-day Nashville about 12,000 years ago but the park is named for long hunters of European descent who came to the area during the mid-1700s in search of animal skins for the lucrative fur trade.
Stop by the visitor center to inquire about special events, get copies of Couchville Lake Arboretum and Ultimate Wildlife Watching booklets, and see the exhibit on cedar glades before hitting the trails to visit this ecosystem first hand.