By Mike Steely

Let’s take a mini-vacation locally this year. Take a long weekend or a week’s vacation, get the kids excited, and let’s go camping.

There are so many commercial and public campgrounds in our area from which to choose, not even counting the Smokey Mountains.

There are Tennessee State Parks here and there within an easy drive from Knoxville. There’s also the often over looked TVA Campgrounds. The campgrounds in and around the National Park can get so congested and noisy that you may want to opt for the lesser known TVA sites.

Plus, the TVA sites are usually much cheaper, at about $ 22 per might with water and electric service at many sites. Veterans get the sites at one-half price but all sites are rented on a first-come basis. Camping mid-week is probably more available.

Camping at TVA sites can be in a tent, popup, trailer, motor home, etc. but be prepared because you may not get the ideal site you want. That’s why, if you can, it’s better set up during the week rather than the weekend.

My wife and I recently discovered Melton Hill Dam’s TVA campsite and it is close to Knoxville, just past the I-75 exit west on I-40 at the first exit. South at the exit takes you to Lenoir City and north takes you quickly to the Melton Hill Dam.

The campsites are at the first turn and you’ll see the dam on the left and the campground on a hill to the right. Some sites are on the water and some are on a couple paved roads overlooking the lake.

The unique thing about Melton Hill Dam is that most of the immediate local electric is supplied by solar panels and wind turbines. There’s an observation building above the campground where you can see much of the lake and read about the alternative energy sources.

Other TVA campgrounds in our area include those at Watauga Dam near Elizabethton, Cherokee Lake near Jefferson City,  and Douglas Dam at the Headwaters and Tailwaters. Further west there’s a TVA campground at Pickwick Dam near Savannah, Tn.

Camping at these TVA site opened March 17th and closes November 17th. Tents with no hook ups is only $ 10 or $12 with electric per day. RV sites with no hook ups are $ 17 or $ 22 with electric and water. Some sites also have RV sites with electric, water, and sewer and those are $ 26. Veterans with ID cards can get an RV site with electric and water for $ 11 per day.

Long term rates are available. An RV can stay with no hook ups for $ 285 a month or $ 330 with electric and water.

So, compared with commercial campgrounds and national campgrounds staying on or near a lake at a TVA site is much cheaper.