By Jeremy Patton
Norris Dam State Park is located in Anderson County and Campbell County, Tennessee.
From I-75, take exit 128 to Rocky Top. Head northeast on US-441 for about 1.5 miles to Norris Dam State Park and about 5 miles to the dam itself.
On 10/8/16, I was driving back home from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Alcoa, TN. I passed numerous natural areas of Tennessee that I had not explored, so I could not resist crossing one off my list.
Soaring, green mountains framed the town of Rocky Top as I approached from the north. I wanted to drive into the mountains, park and start walking. It was nearly 5:00 p.m., however, so I did not have time.
I ate a sandwich in Rocky Top then drove to Norris Dam, the quicker, easier option. Before US-441 snaked below the cliffs and crossed the dam, I turned right and took some photos at Norris Dam West Overlook. The gorge and surrounding hills were lovely, but heavily scarred by human development. I tried to imagine the area before humans arrived.
I drove across the dam, turned around and headed back toward the park entrance. I noticed a trailhead on the right with a large map posted. It was the beginning of two trails: Marine Railway Loop and Chuckmore Trail. I chose the former because I figured that it would lead to an overlook.
I did not find an overlook, but the trail descended the steep ridge to the banks of the Clinch River / Norris Lake. The water was very low, due in part to an ongoing drought. I walked the lakeshore for a while and found several curiosities, including some rock formations that would have normally been submerged.
I did not complete the trail due to impending nightfall. I probably hiked 2 miles round-trip. I rate the trail as difficult because it was all uphill on the way back.
As you can see, I just scratched the surface of Norris Dam State Park. I intend to return to complete some of its trails.
What lured me to Rocky Top were the majestic mountains. After scanning satellite images, I am confident that I have found some quiet back roads into that wilderness. How much of it turns out to public land, remains to be seen.
I saw this sign on the roadside near the dam. I am not sure if it refers to the dam area or the entire park. Anyway, I need to get this off my chest: Carrying a firearm while hiking in the wilderness is COMMON SENSE. Politicians who intend to strip hikers of their ability to defend themselves are corrupt and have likely never set foot in the wilderness. Outdoor enthusists — please remember this offense when you vote.