By Mike Steely
Norris Dam, the first project of the Tennessee Valley Administration, has a large number of trails and walking paths not only inside the large state park but also along its perimeters. The paths and trails offer a wide variety of difficulties, from Wheelchair Accessible to very hard.
If you’re headed to the dam you may want to also visit the Museum of Appalachia between I-75 and Norris Freeway or drive into the Norris community as well. The town was built originally to house employees and officials during the 1930s construction of the dam. About 1,500 people live in the town now and take pride in their history and their community.
Song Bird Trail Loop, a favorite of my wife and I, stretches one mile each way from just below the dam along the waters of Clinch River. The path is wide, level and easy to walk. Along the way, you’ll see people fishing from the bank or from the short piers. There’s usually lots of parking available on both ends.
Andrew’s Ridge Trail is almost two miles long and rated “easy to moderate.” It goes along the park’s highest point near the rim of the West Campground.
Sinkhole Trail is .85 miles long and is also “easy to moderate” and located along part of the Andrew’s Ridge Trail. It loops back to connect with the trail and there’s one very large sinkhole along the route.
Lake View Trail is almost five miles long and can be difficult now and then. Along the trail are the remains of old homesteads that existed before the dam was built.
Lakeside Trail is about half a mile long and is an easy hike. The heavily-used trail begins near the dam and passes by the Information Center where, if it is open, one could stop in for a visual history of the creation of the dam. There are also restrooms at the building.
Christmas Fern Trail is one-half mile long and rated as “easy.” Along the way, you’ll find lots of American holly, umbrella magnolias, pawpaws, white oaks, red maples and many other plants. In season you may also find raspberries.
Following an undefined trail between the town of Norris and the park, High Point Trail and is rated “moderate to difficult” for hiking.
Fitness Trail is almost a mile long and rated as “moderate.” It is popular with local residents and designed with senior citizens in mind to create a physical workout in an outdoor setting.
The Marine Railway Loop is four miles long and can be difficult at times. It’s the park’s most diverse trail with elevation changes that give the walker a view of the different plants and terrain.
While you’re in the park you may also want to visit the Lenoir Museum, the Rice Grist Mill or the Cosby Threshing Barn. All three are located along Highway 441, just south of the dam. You may also want to visit the rustic “east side” of the park and view the cabin rentals there, have a picnic, or drive through the original campground there.
If you’d like more information about Norris Dam you may contact the Friends of Norris Dam by calling (865)426-7461 or find the non-profit group online or on Facebook.