Located less than 30 miles from Knoxville, Tennesee, Norris Dam State Park is 4,000 acres wide and has over 800 miles of shoreline along the picturesque Lake Norris, an artificial reservoir built by Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s. As the name suggests, the centerpiece of this eastern Tennessee State Park is the great Norris Dam.
However, the true magic of Norris Dam State Park lies in its plentiful opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation such as fishing, hiking, and birding. On both the eastern and western sides of the dam, guests can spot birds such as waterfowl, osprey, and eagles nesting along the shore. Many migratory birds can also be sighted in the spring. A host of other wild Tennessee animals such as groundhogs and foxes can occasionally be seen too.
Not only does the park provide guests with plenty of activities to explore the outdoors, but it also is a great venue for large gatherings and social events. The Norris Dam State Park Tea Room is a great choice for family reunions, weddings, and other events for large groups.
Norris Dam State Park is only a half-hour away from Knoxville, making it easily accessible from I-75. Visitors will want to drive carefully on many of the local roads within the park as some of them can be a bit winding and hilly. US-441 runs right through the park, though this road might be a bit difficult for larger RVs to maneuver due to a few hairpin turns, especially near the marina. However, this road also offers one of the most scenic views in the park since guests can drive right on top of the dam and see straight across Norris Lake. The entire park is spread out around Norris Lake. The Visitor Center and Tea Room are located on the eastern side, while the Park Office, cabins, and playground are on the western side.
While parking is available in various areas throughout the park, it's probably easiest to leave the RV at the campsite if planning to stay overnight. If you're visiting for the day, guests can park in any of the public parking lots. Once the RV is parked, guests can explore the rest of the park by biking, driving a smaller secondary car, or by good-old-fashioned walking.
Surrounded by majestic pines, oaks, and maples, the West Campground is located on the west side of Norris Dam, closer to the cabin area. The larger of the two park campgrounds, the West Campground has 50 sites equipped with water and electrical hookups. Sites in the West Campground are paved, mostly shaded, and rather private thanks to the surrounding woodland.
Each site features a picnic table, grill, and fire pit. The largest RV that can be accommodated in this campground is 60 feet. There are several ADA-accessible sites available by reservation only. Nearby facilities include restrooms, showers, a playground, and a dump station that are all centrally located. Seasonal laundry facilities can be found near the Park Office.
Pets are welcome, and reservations can be made up to one year in advance. Campers should review the park's campfire policy before entering the park and ensure that they use heat-treated wood for all campfires.
Located on the eastern side of the Norris Dam, closer to the Tea Room and Museum, is the slightly smaller East Campground. The East Campground offers 25 campsites equipped with water and electrical hookups, as well as 10 primitive campsites that are exclusively for tent camping. Each site features a picnic table, grill, and fire pit. Campers should note that the majority of pads in this campground are gravel, and some sites are on a slight incline. The largest site at this campground can accommodate an RV that is 56 feet long.
Overnight campers can find restrooms, showers, and a dump station centrally located within the campground, and they can do their laundry during the peak season at the facilities near the Park Office. Pets are welcome, and visitors can make reservations up to one year in advance. Campers should make sure that they review the park's firewood regulations and only use heat-treated wood for all campfires.
The Backcountry Campsite is a beautiful, scenic site located on Andrews Ridge and offers campers an overlooking view of Norris Lake. This is a pack-in, pack-out site that has no water or electricity available, so campers will need to make sure they bring enough provisions for their stay. The campsite has enough space for three tents and includes a stone fire ring. Be sure to check in with the park office before heading out to the campground.
Campers who want to take a break from the RV will love spending a few nights in one of the park's modern cabins. The park has a total of 10 cabins available by reservation only. Each cabin has three bedrooms and is furnished with basic furniture and kitchen appliances. Linens and cooking utensils are provided. The cabins are also equipped with heating and air conditioning. Guests should note that only one of the cabins is pet friendly. Each cabin can accommodate a maximum of six people.
Additionally, the park offers 19 rustic cabins that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These historic cabins have been updated to include many of the same amenities of the modern cabins including kitchen appliances, television, window air conditioning units, and electric heaters. Several of the rustic cabins are pet-friendly. As a courtesy, visitors will be provided firewood for the first night, but will then be responsible for acquiring more firewood from the camp store.
Norris Dam State Park has several trails suitable for equestrian use. They include the one-mile Camp Sam Trail, the five-mile Lakeview Trail, the two-mile Lakeside Loop, and the nearly three-mile Highpoint Trail. These trails are located on the east side of the park and include a variety of difficulty levels with trails perfect for beginners as well as experienced riders. Riders should be aware that these are multi-use trails. Be sure to keep an eye out for hikers and always share the trail.
Equipped with an ADA-accessible marina, Norris Dam State Park offers excellent boating experiences for all of its RV guests. Norris Dam Marina is fully-equipped with a public boat ramp that visitors can use for launching their boat into the lake. Additionally, the park offers a variety of boat rentals including ski boats, fishing boats, and pontoon boats. In the fall months, Norris Dam State Park offers one-hour pontoon boat trips that start in the marina and take guests on the water to explore the beautiful shores of Lake Norris.
The Norris Dam State Park swimming pool is open for all guests to enjoy during the summer months. Guests should be aware that the pool only operates for a few days out of each week with the exception of holiday weeks when the pool is open every day. Be sure to check the pool schedule before making plans to swim. Lifeguards are always on duty during pool operating hours. Amenities in the pool area include lounge chairs and picnic tables.
Norris Dam State Park offers 15 different hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty. Ranging from less than a mile up to five miles long, these scenic trails cover a total of 20 miles combined. The trails are equally distributed with about 10 miles of trails on each side of the lake to ensure visitors can easily access both the western and the eastern sections of the park. Be aware that most of the trails are multi-use trails, so keep an eye out for others and be sure to share the trail.
Visitors who enjoy fishing will definitely want to consider Norris Dam State Park for their next RV vacation destination. The Norris reservoir is the perfect habitat for brown and rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and crappie. There are also plenty of walleye and even striped bass, which can weigh up to 25 pounds. All visitors who intend to fish in the reservoir are required to have a valid fishing license. Guests can easily purchase fishing licenses and supplies from the marina.
For history buffs, a visit to Lenoir Museum Cultural and Historical Complex is a must when RV camping at Norris Dam State Park. This ADA-accessible museum is dedicated to South Appalachian history and has many artifacts pertaining to farming and the dam. Named after Will G. Lenoir, who donated most of the artifacts, the museum does a great job of preserving early American history. Other interesting historical attractions include the Rice Gristmill, a 19th-century German Barrel Organ, and the Caleb Crosby Threshing Barn, which exhibits farm tools and horse wagons.