By Mike Steely
One of the most rustic and wondrous areas within a couple of hours drive from Knoxville can be found at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. The CCC stands for the Civilian Conservation Corps which worked to create the park, as the Depression Era federal work project did for many of our parks.
Located Northeast of Jamestown, Tennessee, off Highway 154, the park is nearby many other historic and natural attractions including the home of Sgt. Alvin York in Pall Mall, historic Rugby, the Big South Fork Park, and Cordell Hull’s birthplace in Byrdstown.
Pickett State Park is close enough for a morning or afternoon drive and while the park has all the things you’d expect, like a picnic area, camping, etc., it also features almost 20,000 acres of rugged trails, overlooks, a lake, and countless rock shelters and stone arches.
The park was completed in 1942 following a multi-year effort by the CCC to clear the rugged area. Hiking trails, cabins, a lodge and a ranger station were built and a 12-acre lake created.
In 2015 the park and the Creek Canyon State Natural Area earned a silver tier as an International Dark Sky Park destination, becoming the first state park in the south to do so. Wide views of the night sky can be seen from the park.
The Pickett CCC Museum has exhibits and artifacts of the CCC’s work in our state parks and natural areas.
The park has 20 rental cabins in four sizes and each are completely equipped for housekeeping with modern bathrooms, kitchen appliances, utensils, linens, towels and fireplaces. There are 31 campsites in the park, most with electric and water hookups.
Hiking trails, some 58 miles of them, wind through the park. Many are short day-use trails suitable for families. Some of the most popular arches are just off the park road and easily reached. Pickett Park is ideal for the photographer or animal watcher.
The new Archaeology Museum and ETSU Archaeological Research Station, opening last year, features Native American prehistory of the Upper Cumberland Plateau. Tours are offered to visitors and features current research being conducted by East Tennessee State University. The rock shelters in the park were ideal for Native American camping and one of the tours examines the Rock Creek Mortar Shelter where that early hunting population created holes in the rocks to grind up nuts.
Pickett State Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Information on the Archaeologic Museum can be found by calling (931) 879-5812. Information about the park can be obtained by calling the same number or going online to www. tnstateparks.com/parks/pickett.
The calendar at Pickett includes a November 21st Lantern Hike of two miles to Crystal Falls by way of the Hidden Passage Trail.