Fort Dickerson’s Civil War Earthen Fort and Turquoise Quarry

Just beyond the Henley Street Bridge in downtown Knoxville, you can visit one of many old Civil War forts in the area. Fort Dickerson is an extremely well-preserved earthen fort built in the early 1860s by Federals/Union soldiers to protect Knoxville from the Confederates. 


The fort was named after Captain Jonathan C. Dickerson who had valiantly died in battle, and it is a civil war history buff’s dream. There are over 90 acres and large two shelters, it rarely has more than a handful of visitors at any given time, and you can take your pick of places to stretch out on a blanket or have a picnic.


My song for this blog is by War Paint, mostly because it’s a historical war site. 

Fort Dickerson has been a public park since 1957 and really started to draw crowds in the 1960s with battle reenactments and rowdy gunfire shows. When you enter the park, drive all the way up to the top to reach the site of the fort and other features aside from the quarry.


Inside the fort you can follow the historical plaques to learn about Knoxville’s role in the Civil War, famous players and sites, victories, losses, and even check out some replica canons. 


When you first pull into the park, notice the lot to your left. This leads to the Insta-worthy quarry overlook and the Pit Viper Trail pictured below. This trail is only about half a mile long and it is pretty easy to navigate unless it has rained. 


There are a few different but short walking trails around the fort with comical names like the Pit Viper (yikes!) Trail, Booger Trail, Breastworks Trail, and the Trial and Error Trail. Luckily we did not run into any snakes when walking but I have heard more sightings of snakes in the water than I care to recall, so beware either way.


The overlook has a breathtaking view of this turquoise quarry that makes you feel like you are somewhere far, far away from East Tennessee. Historically known as Lambert’s quarry, it was recently renamed to Augusta Quarry after Augusta road was built to give more convenient access. Most locals just call it the Fort Dickerson quarry.


Parts of it are extremely deep, and unfortunately there have been several deaths in recent years from swimmers jumping into the deep waters, so jumping/diving is forbidden now.


Check out the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable website for info on this and other Civil War sites around Knoxville. Tennessee is major a hub of Civil War history so you can also find many options for Civil War walking tours, and driving tours, and I would absolutely recommend a visit to Fort Higley at the top of High Grounds Park (pictured below).


Fort Dickerson is free to visit and is open from dusk until dawn. Leashed pets and mountain bikes are welcome, as well as swimming/tubes in the quarry. Click here to learn more about park access and rules, and the awesome Outdoor Knoxville: Knoxville Urban Wilderness Project which Fort Dickerson is part of. 

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