Top 10 Tennessee State Parks for Fishing & Camping

Friday, March 20, 2020 | 11:27am
Top 10 Tennessee State Parks

By David Lowrie

R3/Outreach Program Manager

            What are the top 10 Tennessee State Parks for fishing and camping? My list is based upon my strong opinions acquired from some great experiences I’ve had in the parks with my family and friends.

            With a total of 56 state parks, Tennessee has a lot to offer. Now, is the perfect time to get out an enjoy what Tennessee has to offer.  For more in depth information about each of the locations discussed below or any other of the Tennessee State Parks visit:

              Now, here are my Top 10 Tennessee State Parks for fishing and camping:

10.  Pickett CCC Memorial State Park – Located within a short drive of Jamestown, Pickett Park is another opportunity for getting back to fishing basics. The park is home to the 12-acre Arch Lake that is stocked December through June with trout and offers year round opportunity for bass and bluegill.  The park, also, offers boating as the park rents canoes, paddleboards and fishing boats from April through October.

The park has many hiking trials, offers swimming and an archaeology museum.  It is a certified “dark sky” viewing location for great star gazing at night. Basic and RV camping is available as well as four levels of cabin rentals from deluxe to rustic.

9. David Crockett – Just a short drive from Lawrenceburg, David Crockett State Park should not be overlooked.  Known for one of Tennessee’s most famous residents, David Crockett State Park has a hidden gem known as Lake Lindsey which is a 35-acre lake located in the park. Visitors can rent rowboats year-round and catch bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish.  David Crockett State Park is perfect for the family that want to experience simpler times and fishing basics.

The park has historical sites available to teach the younger audience and offers paddling in various boats, biking, hiking, swimming and plenty of birding. Camping from tents to RVs is available as well seven two-bedroom, two bath premium cabins.

8. Norris Dam – Located just a short drive from Knoxville, Norris Dam State Park boasts more than 4,000 acres of public land on Norris Lake.  The lake has serious bass fishing available with quality smallmouth which are caught, regularly. The lake is also stocked each year with walleye and striped bass that provide great sport and great table fare. Below the dam rainbow, brook, and brown trout attract anglers.Camping is available for tents and RVs along with a backcountry campsite for those looking to really get back to nature. The park has standard and rustic cabins for rent with the rustic cabins being originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

7. Pickwick Landing – Located in Counce, Pickwick Landing is another Tennessee River State Park known for, not only great bass fishing, but also, the “Catfish World Championship” and even a sauger tournament. Anglers often do well catching crappie, bluegill, white bass and striped bass too. Activities are abundant at Pickwick Landing with boating, swimming, golf, birding, tennis, disc golf and of course hiking.

Near Pickwick Landing is, also, Shiloh National Military Park known as one of the best-preserved Civil War sites in the nation. With it being just 15 minutes away you could stay at Pickwick Landing and enjoy both parks having fun with your family and teaching your children about the history of the United States. Visitors can pitch a tent or bring their RV to camp as well as stay in the recently renovated park inn.

6. Rock Island – Located just outside McMinnville, Rock Island State Park is special.  While it may seem unfair that two parks on Center Hill Lake make the list, Rock Island is known for excellent walleye fishing as the park is home to the spawning habitat for the fish in the early spring. Fishermen also chase bass, muskellunge, bluegill, crappie and catfish. There is ample bank fishing available as well as beautiful opportunities on the water with boats, kayaks and canoes.

Whitewater kayakers flock to the park for many events. Swimming at the park’s natural sand beach, hiking, picnicking and birding are also reasons to visit. Don’t forget to visit the Blue Hole.  Tent and RV camping is available, as well as, cabins for those not interested in ruffing it.

5. Tims Ford – Located just outside Tullahoma, Tims Ford Lake offers 10,000 acres of fishing that can be some of the best smallmouth bass fishing any angler could ask for. Countless tournaments each year are won on Tims with a heavy sack of five smallmouth bass as many bass anglers call them. The lake is also known for producing large striped bass that are also known as “rockfish.” Crappie fishing has also improved over recent years on the lake with some being caught in excess of three pounds.  In addition, below Tims Ford Dam offers great opportunity for trout.   

Tims Ford is also a favorite location of boating enthusiasts throughout the spring and summer. The park hosts another one of Tennessee’s Bear Trace golf courses, hiking, biking, swimming, birding, and camping from primitive sites to RVs. Cabins are also available.

4. Reelfoot Lake – Located in the Northwest corner of the State, Reelfoot Lake was formed by a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault in the winter of 1811-12. The quakes caused the land on the east side of the Mississippi River to sink, creating a great depression which the Mississippi river filled in as the river flowed backwards for a brief period of time. According to Tennessee Parks,

“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.”

Reelfoot is best known for its crappie and bluegill fishing with the best months to target them being April and May. Along with fishing and boating there is plenty of hiking and bird watching in the park. The park also offers tours throughout the year. There are premium cabins for rent as well as two different campgrounds on the park for everything from tents to RVs.

3. Harrison Bay – Located just outside Chattanooga, Harrison Bay State Park sports 1,200 acres of recreation opportunities along the 40 miles of shoreline of Chickamauga Lake. “The Chick” as the lake is affectionately called by bass anglers has become one of the top bass fishing locations in America and is producing over 100 bass caught each year weighing more than 10 pounds. The state record largemouth of 15.20 pounds was caught by Gabe Keen, a schoolteacher, on Feb. 13, 2015.

Harrison Bay has an Olympic sized pool as well as the Bear Trace golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. You can also hike, bike, and birdwatch in the park. RV camping is available in the park throughout the year as well as a group campsite with rustic cabins open April 1 through Oct. 31 each year.

2. Edgar Evins – Just outside Smithville, Edgar Evins State Park is located on the shores of beautiful Center Hill Lake. Center Hill is an 18,000-acre body of water that is part of the Caney Fork River with fishermen targeting crappie, walleye, catfish, trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. The lake produces quality fish and supports multiple fishing tournaments a year. 

Families can enjoy camping, birding, hiking, camping and the full-service marina also has boat rentals. Edgar Evins State Park even rents cabins for those wanting a more refined stay.  A family can get back to spending quality time with one another away from the noise that is our normal everyday life.  Get out and spend some time with your family in the most beautiful park in the state.

1. Fall Creek Falls – A 45-minute drive from Cookeville, Fall Creek Falls State Park is what many consider the crown jewel of the Tennessee Park system as it consistently remains one of the favorite getaways of families in Tennessee. Fall Creek Falls State Park has a lake giving anglers the opportunity for bass, bluegill, and catfish.  In addition, your Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocks Cane Creek which is located near the George hole in the fall of the year and again in the spring and early summer months. The park simply has everything to offer from fishing for multiple species of fish, to hiking, biking, swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, birding, rock climbing, a canopy challenge course, environmental education programs, golf, and camping in both rustic style and RV spots. Fall Creek Falls fits every family’s needs.

Known for its majestic waterfall, Fall Creek Falls has abundant wildlife to observe and fantastic scenery. Families from all over Tennessee visit the park regularly. The park also has a lodge, cabins and great dining for those who don’t want to cook out.