Bruton Branch Recreation Area is technically inside Pickwick Landing State Park, but is its own campground area on the northern side of the lake. Pickwick Landing State Park was developed back in 1969 when the state of Tennessee purchased the town of Pickwick Village from the Tennessee Valley Authority. The park got its name from a 19th-century riverboat stop, the Pickwick Landing on the Tennessee River.
Pickwick Lake is a body of water created when the Pickwick Landing Dam was built to provide electricity to the surrounding areas. This 43,100-acre lake stretches from here to Wilson Dam. There is plenty to do on the lake including fishing for catfish and smallmouth bass, which have been noted for their record sizes. The lake is also known for its beautiful swimming beaches where visitors and locals have enjoyed swimming since the 1840s. Bruton Branch Recreation Area is along the north side of the lake with a swimming beach as well as a boat ramp.
There are 33 campsites at Bruton Branch; most are just a few feet from the lake and all except for sites four through nine can handle a large RV or trailer. If you are into golf, the Pickwick Landing State Park across the lake has an 18-hole golf course with beautiful greens all year long. They also have lodging, a restaurant, and a snack bar on-site. There is also a marina and other amenities on the Pickwick Landing side of the lake that are all open to the public. All types of boats and other watercraft are allowed on Pickwick Lake and you can also rent pontoons, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Just two and a half hours southwest of Nashville, two hours east of Memphis, or an hour southwest of Jackson, Bruton Branch Recreation Area in the southern portion of the state is close to the Tennessee/Alabama border. Highway 20 or 64 will get you there from almost anywhere in the state and if you are coming from the south, Highway 25 is your best bet. The last town you will pass on your way in would be Pyburns, where you can stop and fill up the RV or grab some snacks.
After getting off the “main” road of Pyburns Drive, you will find yourself following some very narrow and winding gravel and dirt roads so make sure you have your GPS working. It is easy to get lost back here in the woods. The named roads of Bruton and Bruton Branch Roads are marked but not as well as they could be so stay alert. Watch for wildlife on the road as they sometimes cross without warning.
The park itself is primitive and you may have trouble getting around in a large RV or if you are pulling a trailer. Although many of the campsites are big enough for RVs, you have to be able to back in for most of them. It is best to park your rig at the campsite and walk to wherever you want to go. If the water is what you came for, the campground is only a few feet away so you will not need to drive anywhere for that.
Located on the north side of Pickwick Lake off of Highway 128, this primitive campground boasts 33 spacious campsites. Most of these campsites are within feet of the lake so you are as close as you can be without actually being in the water. Campsites four through nine are not large enough for big RVs, but the rest can handle up to 50-foot campers. Although there are no electric, sewer, or water hookups at the campsites, there is a shower house with hot water and modern restrooms with running water. They also have a well with water, but it is not treated so bring your own water to drink. Each site comes with its own picnic table and grill. The boat ramp and children’s playground are also close by and they have a swimming beach right by the campground. Across the lake you can also find the visitor center and a golf course as well as a marina with a store, another boat ramp, and several boat docks. Pets are welcome but they must be leashed or otherwise restrained at all times.
Since there are limited spots that can hold larger RVs and trailers, it is recommended that you reserve a spot in advance. However, if you did not have time or forgot to make a reservation, you may be able to find an empty campsite that you can get on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if someone happens to reserve that spot while you are there, you may have to move. The same rules and regulations apply.
Although modern disc golf has been around since the early 1960s, it has taken some time to catch on in the United States. It started in the 1900s in Canada with a group of kids tossing tin lids onto circles drawn on the ground. Now it consists of throwing discs that are similar to frisbees into tees on either a nine or 18-hole course. The course at Pickwick starts next to the Pickwick Inn and has nine holes. It is perfect for both beginners as well as seasoned players.
Don’t forget to pack your clubs because Pickwick Landing State Park has a beautiful 18-hole golf course for you to enjoy. It has been open since 1973 and has become a local favorite as well as the place for small golfing championships. There are 419 Bermuda fairways and Champion Bermuda greens. Some of the fun hazards include lakes and ponds, trees, and bunkers. And you can stop in at the restaurant or snack bar before or after your game for a bite to eat.
There is a nice-sized sandy beach along the Bruton Branch State Recreation Area Campground where you and your family can enjoy a dip in the lake. Many of the campsites are on the beach so if you really like water sports, make sure you reserve one of the lakeside spots. If that beach is too crowded, there are also three lovely beaches across the lake at the Pickwick Landing State Park. So be sure you pack the beach toys and floaties in the campervan and don’t forget your sunscreen.
Bruton Branch Campground has some picnic areas with tables and BBQ pits but if you want to entertain a whole group, you can reserve a shelter over at the Pickwick Landing State Park. With six different pavilions, you have plenty of choices. The first one is one a hill with a view of the marina and has shade, a trail, and seats 125. Shelter two is by one of the beaches and seats 300. If you like the woods, choose shelter three, which seats 60. Shelter four is on the peninsula and seats 200. Shelter five is on a wooded hill with lake views and seats 100. And shelter six is in the woods by a grassy area and seats 200. Shelters one, two, and five have water and electricity.
There are several trails, named and unnamed on both sides of the lake. By Bruton Branch Campground you will find dozens of paths made by wildlife and park visitors that will let you explore the woods as well as around the lake. Across the lake you can check out the Island Loop Trail, which is an easy 2.8-mile hike on a natural surface. The Inn Walking trail is just a little over one mile and has a flat paved surface, perfect for strollers. With all the trails to explore, you have no excuse to just sit in your RV the whole time you are here.
With over 40,000 acres of surface water that is more than 400 feet in depth, you will find some whoppers in this lake. In fact, it is one of the Bassmaster Top 100 Bass Lakes in the United States. It is also the place for several fishing competitions. Bass hit on just about anything from worms to lures to live bait. Catfishing in June by the dam is one of the favorite spots for locals using chicken liver, worms, or minnows. In addition to seven types of bass and three types of catfish, you can also catch just about anything else including sunfish, crappie, sauger, walleye, and bluegill.