Cove Lake State Park

Cove Lake State Park is one of Tennessee’s 12 State Parks and it is located in Caryville, less than 30 miles north of Knoxville.

The land may be ancient but the man-made Cove Lake is the result of the New Deal Caryville Dam Project that began back in the 1930s.

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Nearly 700 acres on the eastern side of the Cumberland Mountains were acquired by the Tennessee Department of Conservation in 1977 and the park has continued to expand. There are over 100 camping sites and several large pavilions, an Olympic sized pool, tennis courts, and an ADA playground.

Cove Lake is technically the easternmost part of Norris Lake, an extension of the TVA Norris Reservoir that dumps into the Clinch River.

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My song for this entry is “Come Undone” by Duran Duran, just because.

Cove Lake is a popular spot for paddle boats, fishing, wildlife/bird watching, hiking, and Geocaching.

The trails here also connect to the Cumberland Trail, Tennessee’s first linear state park that stretches over 300 miles from Cumberland Gap to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park near Chattanooga, TN.

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Half of the seven miles of trails here are neatly paved for walking or biking. Check out the trail map here.

Some of it is still under construction, so it is a hot topic among ambitious hikers from all over the world. I found an FAQ with a Cumberland Trails ranger on YouTube:

Most of my visits have been when it was cold, sometimes rainy, and while the mountains were rolling out this eerie and beautiful fog.

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We have walked a handful of trails that wind through the woods and different wetland settings.

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Remnants of Indian Mounds were discovered here by a UT Knoxville excavation in 1937. It is believed that they originated from 1000 to 1200 AD when Native Americans inhabited Cove Creek.

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On the quieter side of the lake, a short trail leads to an observation tower. We struggled a bit in the deep, slick, grey mud but went for it anyways. Definitely wear rubber boots if it is rainy.

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It was peaceful here despite its proximity to I-75.

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Walking through the wetlands side of the trail nearest to the highway, there is an installation with the Story of the Oak Tree. At first I thought it was just an interactive bit for kids, but we got sucked in.

Halfway through the trail I had become invested, and my heart broke a little bit when the story ended.

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Rickard Ridge BBQ is located inside the park beside the Visitors Center, looking out over the hills and trees.

We have tried a few dishes now- the “Hog Heaven” with thick slices of crisp potatoes topped with pulled pork, shredded cheddar, onions, sour cream, and barbecue sauce, as well as the Cove Burger, white cheddar macaroni & cheese, and the potato cakes.

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Latkes are one of my all-time favourite foods and I will eat them almost any way, but the potato cakes at Rickard Ridge were unique.

It was more like a cheesy, chunky, scalloped potato casserole formed into cakes and then fried. They are served with sour cream and a fruity habanero sauce. Perfection.

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Staying in the area for a while? Check out the nearby towns of Norris and Clinton, and don’t forget to subscribe!

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