Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this 1,200-acre park is named for the town of Harrison, which is now partially submerged under Harrison Bay along the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. The town was named after President William Henry Harrison and had been the county seat until after the Civil War. It was largely flooded in 1940 when the Chickamauga Dam was built, as depicted in the 1960 film “Wild River”. The park is also historically significant because this area consisted of three villages which were ruled by one the last great Cherokee chieftains. Originally established as a Tennessee Valley Authority Recreation Area in the 1930s, it became Tennessee’s first state park in 1937.
Visitors can enjoy 40 miles of scenic shoreline, six short hiking trails (1 mile or less), a 4.5-mile biking/hiking trail, a marina, interpretive center, camp store, and a concession/gift shop. All types of boats and watersports vehicles are allowed. There are also two large picnic pavilions with a swimming pool, playground, and horseshoe pits nearby. Of special note is the Bear Trace Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course known for its integrity, playability, and environmental sensitivity. Certified by Audubon International and recognized as Tennessee’s first Groundwater Guardian Green Site, it is exemplary for other golf courses in the United States and worldwide.
Campers can choose from 128 RV/tent sites with water/electricity year-round, and 21 primitive tent sites (closed during winter months). Restrooms are centrally located in each of the four camping areas. A group camp consisting of 24 open-air cabins along with a playground, picnic pavilions, dining/recreation hall, baseball field, basketball court, and volleyball court is also available from April through October.
The park is home to white-tailed deer, raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, eagles, herons, snakes, and many other critters, so please respect their space and habitat. Hiking is excellent here for people of all skill levels, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous! What a true gem of a park. Next time, my visit will be longer than two nights!