With beautiful Wheeler Lake at its heart, Joe Wheeler State Park offers tremendous opportunities for fun on the water. The park also boasts some 2,500 acres of land along the lake’s shore, giving visitors the chance to enjoy the placid, gently rolling forests that characterize northern Alabama. Located just outside of Rogersville, Alabama, the park is a must-visit for anglers, boaters and nature enthusiasts alike.
As soon as you park your rig at Joe Wheeler State Park, you can begin to enjoy spectacular views of the lake and the imposing limestone bluffs that line some of its shores. Soak in the warm, southern air and watch some of the park’s diverse birdlife soar overhead or splash down into the water. Or, break out the tackle box and get prepped to cast for some of the smallmouth, largemouth, and crappie which call the park’s waters home. You can also explore one of the Joe Wheeler’s three lovely hiking/biking trails, which meander under the boughs of tall hardwoods and pines.
Joe Wheeler State Park is an amazing RV destination no matter what time of the year you visit. Hot summer days beckon visitors to the cool waters of the lake, while mild winters offer a respite for northerners looking to get away from the cold. For those looking to explore more of northern Alabama, the park is also located within a short drive of the expansive William B. Bankhead National Forest and the tremendously popular Monte Sano State Park.
Joe Wheeler State Park is located on Wheeler Lake in northwest Alabama, near Rogersville in Lauderdale County, off of Alabama Highway 101. Local roads connect the park’s main features, including the Day Use Area, the golf course, the campground, and several trailheads. Visitors should note that parcels of the park lie on either side of Wheeler Lake, with the bulk of the park lying on the northern shore. Visitors interested in using the Joe-Wheeler multi-use trail can take the 101 across Wheeler Lake to access the park’s southern parcel. There are no driving restrictions for RVs or trailers within the park, and roads are mostly paved, so getting around will be easy, whether you’re in a small personal vehicle or a large RV.
The park’s northern parcel is fairly small and lined with footpaths, making it a great place for a stroll or even a short bike ride. Unless you’re towing a boat, you probably won’t need to hop in your rig to get from the campground to the Day Use Area. A walk through the park provides the chance to get your steps in and enjoy the fresh lake air.
Joe Wheeler State Park features 116 pet-friendly campsites available for tents and RVs year-round; 110 of these are full hookup sites, offering water, electric and sewage hookups. The campground is set in a beautiful wooded area, giving visitors the chance to see some of the park’s diverse flora and fauna. The shade provided by tall oaks and pines can also be a welcome respite on hot summer days. The campsites are divided among three sections, A, B, and C. If you want a lakefront site be sure to make your reservation as early as possible, as these scenic fill up quickly.
Amenities at this campground include a bathhouse in each section, modern restrooms, and a dump station. Wi-fi is also available, so you can stay connected during your trip. Laundry services are also available at the nearby County Store (the machines don’t take cards, so make sure to bring quarters!).
Each site has a concrete or gravel pad, a picnic table, and either a pedestal or a fire grill. Both pull-through and back-in sites are available, and many of the park’s sites are accessible with a large RV. There are no length limits for RVs or trailers.
Campers will find themselves just a short drive or walk from the park’s lodge, golf course, and marina. Kids can also visit the nearby playground or activity center. Plus, even if you’re not camped right on the lake, you’ll be no further than a couple minutes walk from Wheeler’s placid shores.
There is a two-night minimum on weekends in March-October and a three-night minimum on certain holidays. No check-ins are allowed after 10 p.m. There’s additional lodging available too. Visitors can also stay in some of the park’s lovely cabins, or they can reserve a room with a view at the park’s lodge/resort.
Though all spots are reservable, unreserved campgrounds can be filled on a first-come first-served basis.
Birdwatching at Joe Wheeler is another popular activity. The park’s fish-filled waters and rich woodlands make it home to a large diversity of avian life, so make sure to bring your binoculars along. Waterfowl, including pintails, canvasbacks, buffleheads, mallards and wood ducks, flock to Wheeler Lake and its surroundings. Taking a hike through the forest, you may come across a colorful cerulean or yellow-throated warbler. Listen carefully and you may hear the distinctive call of an eastern wood-pewee, or perhaps even the regionally-famed whip-poor-will. Vireos, kingfishers, flycatchers, and green herons are among the many other species you can catch a glimpse of here.
Avid birders should also check out Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for migratory bird species that is just a short drive from the park.
To fully experience all Joe Wheeler State Park has to offer, you almost have to head out onto the water. If you’re bringing your own boat, there are several launches located in or conveniently near the park, all of which provide access to Wheeler Lake proper. If you aren’t bringing a vessel in tow, don’t fret - the state park rents out bass-fishing boats, paddle boats, and even pontoons! If you’re looking to get a larger boat during the busy summer season, make sure to make a booking well in advance.
If you’re traveling with your boat and expect to stay in the area a while, take advantage of Joe Wheeler State Park’s gorgeous marina. The facility offers 24-foot, 50-foot and 70-foot covered slips, as well as nearly one hundred uncovered slips for sailboats. You can enjoy the marina without even setting foot in your boat. Stroll along the dock to get a marvelous view of Wheeler Lake and its forested shorelines. Fall brings a burst of color to the trees that line the lake, while winter brings mild temperatures and sparser crowds.
Wheeler Lake offers a great variety of opportunities for novice and veteran anglers alike, so make sure your fishing pole is packed in your RV. Bream and catfish can be caught from tranquil fishing spots along the shores, while deeper waters offer up largemouth, white bass, crappie, and stripe. One of the park’s biggest draws is the rich population of smallmouth bass that inhabit the tailwaters of Wheeler Dam; the park, in fact, boasts a former world-record smallmouth!
Given the diversity of fish available, as well as the notoriously large size of catches from the area, it’s no surprise that Joe Wheeler draws anglers from far and wide. The setting is nothing to shake a stick at either. Whether you’re casting from the shaded, tree-lined shore or from a boat in the middle of sparkling Wheeler Lake, you’ll no doubt find your own little slice of tranquility here.
Of course, before you make your first cast, make sure you have a proper fishing license - in this case, an Alabama State freshwater sport fishing license will do.
Joe Wheeler State Park is a great place place to bring your mountain bike if you’re looking for a short but gorgeous ride. The park’s southern parcel features a 2.5-mile multi-use loop, suitable for both hikers and bikers. Roll along the gently sloping terrain and catch glimpses of Wheeler Lake and the dam through the trees.
While the trails in the northern parcel are only open to hikers, bikers are welcome to travel the park’s main roads, and the ride from the campground to the lodge and day use area is certainly a pleasant one. If you’re looking to stretch your legs a bit more, you can take a ride into nearby Rogersville.
In total, Joe Wheeler boasts five miles of lovely hiking trails. One 2.5-mile system is situated between the Day Use Area and the Resort Lodge, with some of the short trails branching off of it leading to great views along the shoreline. On the park’s southern side sits the 2.5-mile Multi-use Trail, which is accessible via a short drive across the lake.
The park’s trails are a great way to get an intimate view of northern Alabama’s mixed-hardwood forests; look for wildflowers throughout spring and summer, and listen for the calls of birds. The woodlands here also boast a rich diversity of reptiles and amphibians.