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Harrison Bay State Park through the trees.

Harrison Bay State Park through the trees. Photos: Arne Heggestad from Gainesville, FL, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine your weekend getaway spent in the water or just chilling near water. That is the kind of place Harrison Bay State Park is. The park is spread along 40 miles of shoreline on Chickamauga Lake and on a space of over 1200 acres, about 30 minutes from Chattanooga.

This park is very popular for its good camping facilities and water activities. Hikers also have plenty of trails to explore. The trails are also great for nonhikers who can take a casual evening walk and watch the setting sun paint the water gold.

Did you know Harrison Bay was the first Tennessee State Park? The park’s history can be traced back to the 1930s when it was developed as a recreation area of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Deriving its name from a large bay at the main channel of the Tennessee River, Harrison Bay was the last of the Cherokee Campground. The Campground consisted of three villages ruled by the last great Cherokee Chieftains. It was made into a state park in 1937.

Whether it’s campers, golfers, boaters, or fishermen, Harrison Bay State Park has everything for everyone. The diverse activities in the park are what makes it quite a popular attraction. Don’t be surprised if you find more people than you were expecting in this park. However, there are plenty of other seasons when the park is a haven for quiet solitude time.

Golfers visit the park due to its Bear Trace Golf Course. This course was designed by the infamous Jack Nicklaus and is termed the best natural piece of the land golf course. The incredible course has just about two things that make it spectacular; water and a heavily wooded stretch of land with towering pines and hardwood trees. Bear Trace also excels at environmental conservation. The course is rated high for being one of the most environmentally sensitive courses in the U.S.

As if golfing at an infamous course and picturesque shoreline wasn’t enough, Harrison Bay State has complete marina facilities to make your visit here worth it.

Campers also rate Harrison Bay State Park highly due to its good camping facility. The campgrounds allow for 128 RVs and have water and electrical hookups. If you were looking for primitive camping, there are 21 primitive tents-only sites.

Biking enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the 4.5-mile loop bike trail. The trail offers some great uphill climbs and also thrilling downhill opportunities. It’s a beautiful trail that can be used by everyone regardless of their abilities.

Activities

It’s safe to say you can plan your weekend getaway to Harrison Bay State Park regardless of the number in your company. The park has activities for people of all ages and abilities. You could seek a relaxed stay at the shoreline and take evening walks as you watch dusk approach. Or you could opt for an active weekend at the park.

The most popular activities at Harrison Bay State Park are Camping, boating at the Marina, and golfing. The unlimited access to the shoreline provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, and paddling. Hikers have lots of trails to explore with varying difficulty levels and phenomenal views of the lake and forest. The bike trail at Harrison Bay State Park is exceptional with fun challenges on the way that is possible for people of all abilities.

Camping

Camping at Harrison Bay State Park provides for both RV and primitive camping. There are 128 RV campsites with water and electrical hookups. Although only a limited number can accommodate RVs of up to 65 ft. The RV campsite has one dumping station and bathhouses that are located in each of the four camping areas and playgrounds. The park has firewood available for purchase. You can set up a tent beside the RV but it’s limited to only one per site. The camp has a store that offers essentials such as drinks, t-shirts, souvenirs, and some educational material.

There are 27 tent-only campsites if you want the primitive camping experience. These sites don’t have water or electrical hookups but there is a water spigot located at the center of the camp. The campsites all have a fire ring and a grill. Pads are grave and in the shade.

Boating /Marina

Boating at Harrison Bay is an activity we recommend you add to your itinerary. The miles upon miles of shoreline provide an ideal place to float on the water. You can rent rowboats and fishing boats by the week or day. Recently, transient boats are also available for rent on a first-come basis.

With the park stretched along the shoreline of Chickamauga Lake, it’s no surprise that paddling would be popular at this park. The park allows all types of boats or water vehicles. There is one boat launch ramp that’s free for the public located at the marina while another one is located at Wolftever off Highway 58. There are plenty of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boats available for rental seasonally by the hour. Check out the rates below;

Golfing

Bear Trace course will attract golfers to Harrison Bay since it boasts Jack Nicklaus’s handprint. His designs are infamous and loved by many golfers. This phenomenal course is situated about 20 minutes north of downtown Chattanooga. The Bear Trace course carries Jack Nicklaus’ signature emphasis on the playability of the course.
The course has on-site amenities including a Driving Range, Pull Carts, Club Rental, Practice Green, and even a Snack Bar. Lessons are available in case you are interested in trying out golfing.

Hiking

There are a variety of trails ranging from easy to moderate. You can explore the shoreline using the Lakeshore loop trail. This is a multi-use trail that can be used by everyone from hikers to runners or people who want to take a walk. At every turn, this trail rewards you with gorgeous views of the lake.

One of the highlights of Harrison Bay State Park is its wooded forest.. Use the 1.5-mile wooded nature loop for some more challenging hiking. This trail has some steep inclines and is considered moderate. If you want to explore some grassland, take the half-mile walking trail through the native grassland.

Here are some of the main trails in Harrison Bay State Park:

  • Bay Point Loop: 4.5 miles, natural surface, moderate.
  • Lakeshore Loop: 1.5 miles, natural surface, moderate
  • Fitness Loop: 0.5 miles, gravel, easy.

Biking

You can bring your mountain bike to Harrison Bay State Park. Bay Point Loop is ideal for moderate biking as it meanders along the shore. This 4.5 miles of natural surface trail is used by both bikers and hikers. It’s wide and popular with local bike clubs with a few climbs and excellent views of the lake.

Fishing

Chickamauga Lake is an excellent place to fish. At Harrison Bay, you can access over 35,000 acres of the lake. There are also many nearby islands and good spots for fishing at your disposal.

The best thing about fishing at Harrison Bay is that the park allows for any type of fishing you desire. Whether by boat, at the bank, or at the park’s accessible pier. There is plenty of bluegills, bass, crappie, gar, and crackers to be found here. Remember to secure a fishing license before you embark on your trip.

Birding

Harrison Bay State Park runs along the shores of Chickamauga Lake. The park is situated on the largest open area making it an excellent habitat for many bird species. There are shorebirds, osprey, wintering waterfowl and bald eagles to be spotted here. The Bear Trace golf course has a bald eagle nest and has been designated as the site for “Eagle Cam”.

Park Location

Harrison Bay State Park
8411 Harrison Bay Road
Harrison, TN 37341
Phone: 423.344.6214

Park Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Harrison Bay State Park: