Tennessee’s state parks are truly glorious. The state has 54 parks and 77 state natural areas, stretching from the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the banks of the Mississippi River in the west. State parks and natural areas encompass 185,000 acres throughout the state. In 2007, Tennessee’s parks were judged the best in the nation by the National Recreation and Park Association. The commendation came after a long and bitter fight over user fees and state budget woes that led to the closure of 14 parks and the imposition of user fees at 23 parks between 2002 and 2006. The fight over the future of the state parks illustrated how valuable they are indeed.
Each state park includes basic amenities such as picnic facilities and day-use areas with public restrooms, water, and a park office of some kind. Most parks also have campgrounds, hiking trails, playgrounds, and facilities for sports such as volleyball, basketball, and baseball. A number of parks have swimming beaches, bicycle trails, areas for fishing or hunting, and backcountry campsites.
The park system includes six parks with inns, twelve with golf courses, eight with restaurants, and four with marinas. A number of parks also have cabins, ideal for families or other groups.
For travelers who enjoy the out-of-doors, the state parks are some of the best places in the state to visit. Despite persistent budget problems, the parks are generally well maintained. Accommodations are not luxurious, but they are clean and comfortable, and the natural beauty that exists in many of the parks is unparalleled. Camping in a state park sure beats the KOA any day.
Detailed information about fees, amenities, and services may be found on the state park website (http://state.tn.us/environment/parks). You can also request a published map and brochure. Enthusiasts may also want to subscribe to the Tennessee Conservationist, a magazine published by the State Department of Environment and Conservation.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition