Day-tripping- One National Park, Two Lakes and Three Historic Towns.
The 9 Lakes of East Tennessee offers up some wonderful day trips for travelers who want to experience more. The region is not only easily drivable, but most of the parks, lakes, and downtowns are linked together by scenic roads that will make you want to grab your camera for a photo. Most day trips last about 8 hours and will take you on great adventures to great places.
This month’s trip plan is a tribute to the National Preservation month of May. The 9 Lakes region is chock full of interesting historic towns and sites that have been preserved and re-purposed to create charming Main Streets and purposeful business districts.
Your trip begins with a hearty country breakfast at Hoskins Drug Store in downtown Clinton, TN. Clinton’s history is at the center of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement and school desegregation in the South. Imagine being one of the twelve young African American students who braved entry into a formerly all-white high school. The Green McAdoo Cultural Center and Museum, located in Clinton, tells the story of these students and the Civil Rights movement. Finish by strolling the antique district of the downtown area. Plan to spend about 1.5 hours in Clinton.
Continue your travels by heading west on TN 61 towards Oak Ridge and the Manhattan National Historic Park. As you drive along TN 61, Melton Hill Lake will be on your left. Listed on the National Historic Register in 2017, the river like lake is the only TVA tributary lake that has a navigation lock. Your drive will take about 19 mins to reach Oak Ridge.
The first stop will be the Children’s Museum, also Park Headquarters for the Manhattan National Historic Park. Pick up brochures about the Park. Continue to the “undiscovered” Oak Ridge History Museum. Absorb the stories from the excellent curated displays that “shine a light” on the human element of the Secret City and the Manhattan Project. Three side trips to choose from include the American Museum of Science and Energy and A. K. Bissell Park, both located along the Oak Ridge Turnpike and the K25 Overlook and Museum on SR95. Recently renovated, the Overlook provides a great view of the former K25 uranium enhancement complex. Plan to spend about 2.5 hours in Oak Ridge.
Hungry? Set your GPS for Harriman via SR62/61 for a pleasant country drive to the Roane St. Grill for a southern style lunch. As is typical in the South, the daily menu specials are hand written on a large board and will feature a “meat and 3” plate.
After lunch, begin your exploration of downtown Harriman with a stop to the Temperance Building which houses the Harriman Heritage Museum. Harriman was a city envisioned in 1889 as a designed community for “social temperance and industry where “no manufacture, storage or sales of intoxicating liquor or beverages” would take place.” Other buildings of historical significance are the Princess Theatre, the Carnegie Library, and the Cornstalk Heights Historical District, which features over 100 homes and structures. All of these locations are listed on the National Historic Register.
Make your last stop, Roane County Park on the shores of Watts Bar Lake. Hike the walking trail and reflect that legendary naturalist John Muir walked through this community on his 1000 mile trek to the Gulf. Relax and plan your next day’s adventure! Here are some additional historic planned trips for you: Historic Homes of Knoxville and Touring the Cherohala Skyway.