By Mike Steely
Getting away from Knoxville on an outing can be fun and educational. Don’t tell the kids it is educational, surprise them. Ever taken a day to visit the many dams in our region?
People who fish know most of them, especially if they fish from shore as one of the favorite shore places is above or below a dam. Many of our dams back up the TVA waters and, nearby, are picnic areas, cabins, campgrounds and viewing points. All of these dams are within day’s drive and you might want to stop by the historic attractions, scenic views or other sites along the way.
The closest dams to our home county are Norris Dam just northeast of Clinton, Melton Hill Dam and the Fort Loudoun Dam. Traffic no longer crosses Fort Loudoun Dam and now crosses the Tennessee River just downstream. That’s for security reasons and you can get to either side of the dam for a view.
The nearby Lenoir City Park offers a great view of the lake above the Fort Loudoun Dam or, along the way, a view of it downstream. The well-kept park offers hiking, picnicking, a boat ramp, and a children’s playground.
Nearby is Tellico Dam that backs up the waters of Lake Tellico far into the mountains to the east. The dam caused the flooding of many of the Cherokee’s historic Overhill Villages and for years the discovery of the “snail darter” fish held up construction.
Norris Dam was TVA’s first structure and built to help prevent flooding and to supply the valley with electricity. Norris Dam State Park offers hiking, camping, cabins, a small museum and a great overlook just east of the dam. There’s a large dock on the west side of the dam and, on the east side is the Lenoir Water Mill and a large museum. It’s all free and open daily.
Other nearby dams include Cherokee, Douglas, Tellico, Watts Bar, Hiwassee, Nolichucky, Watauga and three dams on the Ocoee River.
Fontana Dam in North Carolina is well worth a visit as is Fontana Village. The overlook on the dam downstream is awesome. Nearby the movie “Nell” was filmed.
Just west of Robbinsville, NC, is the Cheoah Dam, famous now for the filming of the movie “The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. The film has Ford jumping off the dam and escaping downstream following the Ford line, “I didn’t kill my wife” and Jones replying, “I don’t care.”
Robbinsville is the county seat of Graham County, home town of country singer Ronnie Milsap, and the site of Cherokee Chief Junaluska’s grave and museum.