8 Adventures for May #TSP80

April 28, 2017  |  Permalink

Summer is right around the corner, and Tennessee State Parks are there to kick off your summertime funtime. Here are a few of our 80th Anniversary adventures to get you through the month. 

Fort and Earthworks at Fort Pillow State Historic Park

(Historic Adventure)


Located on the western edge of Tennessee, Fort Pillow is rich in historic and archaeological significance. Steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River made this area a strategic location during the Civil War. Confederate troops built the fort in 1861 and named it after General Gideon J. Pillow of Maury County. They abandoned it in 1862 due to the Union Navy’s advancement along the Mississippi River, and re-took it in 1864. Today, the fort features well-preserved breastworks and a reconstructed inner fort. Television buffs might recognize the fort from the 2016 miniseries Roots. The character Chicken George fought at the Battle of Fort Pillow.

A great time to visit the fort is on May 6. The park will host the annual living history event that includes cannon and rifle demonstrations, hikes, hayrides, weapons tactics, encampment tours and more. This free event lasts all day and is a perfect way to engage with Civil War history.

Fort Pillow is located about 40 miles north of Memphis. Visitors who want to make it an overnight trip should check out the park’s camping. There are 30+ RV and trailer campsites, as well as primitive and backcountry options. In addition to history and camping, the park has a tranquil lake, Sullivan’s Pond, and rents canoes year-round for use on the lake. Life jackets and a paddle are provided. 


Museum/Visitor Center at Fort Loudoun State Historic Park

(Educational Adventure)


Itsi hard to imagine the time when Tennessee was the frontier, but in the 1750’s it was just that. Tennessee was the border of the British colony of South Carolina.  During the French and Indian War, the French made an aggressive push to control the Mississippi Valley. To counter that effort, the British sent the Independent Company of South Carolina to build the garrison at Fort Loudoun. Unfortunately, this caused the local Overhill Cherokee Nation to side with the French and created bitter relations between the groups. In 1760, the Cherokee drove the British from the garrison and the fort was never used again.

Today, a replica fort stands to help visitors step into this period of American history. The park’s museum displays artifacts that excavators found at the site as well as information about life in a 18th Century garrison. The fort and museum are great destinations for grade school children who are learning about this period of American history.

While the museum and fort are available for tour on a daily basis, the Garrison Weekend on May 20-21 is an especially great time to visit. Come see men, women, and children re-enact life in a frontier fort. In addition to a replica infirmary, soldier’s barrack, commander’s quarters, and blacksmith shop, visitors will also experience musket and artillery demonstrations throughout the day. This free event is one that you will not want to miss.


Cypress Lake at Reelfoot Lake State Park

(Natural Wonder Adventure)


On the northwest corner of Tennessee sits the only naturally-formed lake in the entire state. A series of violent earthquakes created the 15,000-acre lake in the early 1800’s. The earthquakes were so powerful the Mississippi River actually flowed backwards for a short period of time!

The park’s ecosystem is unlike any other place in Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is a flooded forest. While majestic cypress trees rise above the water, below the surface are many submerged Cypress stumps. A variety of aquatic plants and flowers occupy the shoreline and saturate the shallow water. The lake harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as golden and American bald eagles.

The summer is a great time to visit the park, and one of the best ways to experience Reelfoot Lake is by boat.  The park offers a variety of canoe and pontoon boat tours throughout the year. May is the first month of the scenic pontoon boat tours at the park. Visitors will see a variety of flowers along the shore and the lake’s beautiful water lilies, as well as great blue herons, ducks, osprey and the occasional eagle soaring above. 


Hike to the Appalachian Trail from Rocky Fork State Park

(Recreational Adventure)


The Appalachian Trail needs no introduction in the outdoor community. This famous thru-trail runs from Maine to Georgia, skirting the boarder of east Tennessee along the way. Rocky Fork State Park is one of Tennessee’s newest state parks and is a great place to hike in and connect with the Appalachian Trail.

Rocky Fork State Park is 2,037 acres of scenic wilderness in Unicoi County, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of east Tennessee. Rocky Fork is approximately 30 minutes from both Johnson City and Asheville, N.C. The park is primitive in every sense of the word. There are no buildings. There are no restrooms. Bears roam the forest. Cell service is scant. Yet, for those with a passion for adventure, this park is an exceptional opportunity.

Hikers can take one of several park trails to access the .35-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail Access Route. From there, hikers can follow the renowned path for as long and as far as their heart desires.


Sewanee Natural Bridge at South Cumberland State Park

(Natural Wonder Adventure)


The Sewanee Natural Bridge is a state natural area that is part of a larger body of land known as South Cumberland State Park. The natural area designation is due to the unique geological formation and habitat that it provides. This beautiful sandstone rock is an easy hike from the parking lot and one of those “Instagram moment” kind of destinations. Because it is a natural area, visitors should use caution to preserve the land and habitat.

While in the area, check out other sections of the 18,000-acre South Cumberland State Park. The Foster Falls campground is perfect for car-camping or small trailers. There are no water or electrical hookups, but a restroom and heated showers are available. The park is also home to some 90+ miles of backpacking trails and more than 90 backpacking campsites. Steep bluffs, waterfalls, climbing routes and hiking trails make this park an ideal destination for the outdoor adventurer.


Mountain Biking at Booker T. Washington State Park

(Recreational Adventure)


One of the best ways to enjoy the phenomenal scenery of Booker T. Washington State Park is on the six-mile mountain biking trail. This single-track trail features some long, uphill climbs with rewarding, but very fast, down hills. The trail has some banked turns, so it is challenging, but still rated for all abilities. The trail provides riders glimpses of Chickamauga Lake, just upstream from the city of Chattanooga.

Chattanooga is known for outdoor recreation. It is the only city to win Outside Magazine's  “Best Outdoor City” twice. Booker T. Washington plays a small part in the vibrant outdoor culture of this amazing town. Plan to make a long weekend out of your visit and see just what kind of adventures you can have on the border of Georgia and Tennessee.


Laurel Falls on the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Scenic Park

(Waterfall Adventure)


Deep inside a narrow canyon, Laurel Falls takes an 80-foot spill across a wide vertical wall and into a chaotic swarm of massive boulders. The flow may be light in dry times, but the beauty is never disappointing. Foot for foot, the Laurel-Snow Trail leading to the falls in among Tennessee’s most scenic paths. It hangs above Richland Creek’s whitewater and house-sized blocks of sandstone.

Laurel Falls is just one of many destinations on the Cumberland Trail. The Cumberland Trail is part of an ambitious dream to develop a footpath connecting Chattanooga and Kentucky. The trail looks more like a dotted line right now, with accessible sections scattered throughout the Cumberland Plateau. Eventually these sections will connect and allow thru-hikers to experience places like Laurel Falls on their way to completing the 300-mile trek.

Safety Alert: Due to recent heavy rains, please exercise extreme caution while enjoying creek areas, including waterfalls, at this time. Water is running high and moving fast in many areas and poses increased safety risk. Check individual park homepages on our website for trail closures and other alerts. 


Golfing on the Bear Trace at Tims Ford State Park

(Recreational Adventure)


The Bear Trace at Tims Ford is one of three courses in Tennessee designed with the help of Jack Nicklaus. This course has received widespread acclaim from several national publications and is a popular destination for locals and travelers. The course sits on a beautiful peninsula on Tims Ford Lake. It combines picturesque scenery with challenging play to make this course an experience that golfers of all levels will enjoy.

Tims Ford State Park is less than 90 minutes away from Nashville, Chattanooga and Huntsville, AL. The park has cabins and campgrounds overlooking the lake. Whether you want to spend some time on the greens, or on a boat relaxing in the sun, this park is a perfect little getaway.

Bonus: Tims Ford State Park is only 40 minutes away from the Sewanee Natural Bridge mentioned above.



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About the 80 Adventures Blog

This year, we want to help you get outdoors.  Whether you are a history buff or a waterfall chaser, Tennessee State Parks has something for you. To celebrate our 80th anniversary, we’ve put together a list of 80 adventures that stretch across all 56 of our parks. Each month, we’ll give you a few of those activities that represent some of the best adventures we have to offer. While most of the events are available year round, we will include ones that we think are best to experience during a particular month.

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