Recreation Nation

Held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest single-day volunteer effort. It celebrates the amazing recreational assets available to the public. Here’s how you can get involved!

The United States has had a long and varied relationship with outdoor recreation. As a nation of tough pioneers who carved civilization out of wilderness, it took some time for Americans to embrace the idea of holding onto the last pieces of undeveloped wild land rather than conquering them.

John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, exhorted the nation in the 1880s to spend time in the mountains and valleys. “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you,” he said. President Theodore Roosevelt, a sickly child who improved his health with an active outdoor life, also helped lead a new movement toward what we now call outdoor recreation in all its many forms. 

TVA’s Lands, Lakes and Streams

Recreation wasn’t mentioned in the 1933 Congressional act that created TVA. But in January, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt—Teddy’s cousin—made his famous “more than a power company” speech to Congress, directing TVA to look at comprehensive recreation planning for the Tennessee Valley.

“It is coming to be realized more and more that in the improvement of our American civilization we cannot stop at hospitals and schools any more than we can confine ourselves to strictly economic subjects. Recreation in its broad sense is a definite factor in the improvement of the bodies and minds of our future citizens.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt on TVA, 1940

“So for the first time, recreation and TVA were linked, and we were off and running,” says Bucky Edmondson, director of TVA Natural Resources. “Of course, the war put a gap in that planning, but once it was over and troops came home, there was a real interest in the outdoors and recreation.”

At TVA, recreation areas generally fall into three categories: lake-based, such as fishing and boating; land-based, such as trails and campgrounds; and stream-access sites. Throughout the Valley, TVA manages 293,000 acres of public land and 11,000 miles of shoreline.

The Value of Recreation

Fishing, hiking, birdwatching and swimming were always enjoyable. But when did we realize they’re also incredibly valuable?

Seventy years ago, there was no need to discuss public access to waterways because all the residents of an area generally knew each other, so a person might simply go to his neighbor’s farm and ask if he could park there while he went fishing. But in the years after World War II, which saw increasing growth in metropolitan areas and the disappearance of thousands of acres of open farmland to development, the need arose for infrastructure that would provide reliable public access.

In 1960, Congress created the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, launching national surveys on recreation every few years. These provided a wealth of data that had never been gathered before and first exposed the enormous economic impact of recreation. After that, grant funds began coming to organizations to build public access infrastructure.

Now, leaders in federal, state and local government are fully aware of the crucial economic value that lakes, swim beaches, stream access sites, fishing spots, trails and campsites bring to the communities around them.

“World-Class Recreation” Right Here at Home

“We have world-class recreation here in the Valley,” says Clay Guerry, TVA recreation strategy specialist. “We have assets that are known beyond the borders of the United States. Just think about the Appalachian Trail, how much has been written about it. It crosses two of TVA’s dams, Fontana and Watauga. One of the best shelters on the trail, the ‘Fontana Hilton’, is on TVA land. The Ocoee whitewater, where the Olympics were held—everyone into whitewater knows the Ocoee. Trout fishermen all over the world know about South Holston. Bass fishing competitions—look at the international media coverage that comes out of that.”

However, enjoying the outdoors doesn’t require an expensive fly-fishing setup, a pricey mountain bike or kayak, or extensive physical strength and abilities. A large study a few years ago reveals that the most popular outdoor activities for Americans are still the simplest: walking, picnicking and just looking at the scenery.

“TVA offers ADA-accessible trails and areas throughout the Tennessee Valley,” adds Guerry. “One example is the new fishing area on the South Holston Dam Reservation that was popular as soon as it was finished. Places like these allow people of all physical abilities to join in the activities they enjoy.”

Grab a Bag! We Need You!

National Public Lands Day also provides an opportunity for everyone who enjoys the outdoors to take a little time to give back. Numerous cleanup events give participants — even little ones — a chance to leave public lands cleaner than they found them.

“Litter, especially disposable plastic, unfortunately is one of those things that we’ll always be fighting,” says Suzanne Fisher, TVA senior program manager who coordinates many volunteer efforts. “Part of our mission of stewardship is to work constantly at keeping public lands and waters clean. However, we can’t do it alone—it’s also an important part of our mission to recruit volunteers, to inspire youngsters to also care about the environment and to have them join us in that mission. We will always welcome every pair of hands—not just on special days, but all year round.”

Last year for NPLD, volunteers pitched in on public lands in all 50 states. At least 100,000 volunteers donated 450,000 hours to accomplish an estimated $11 million value of volunteer work. This year promises to be even bigger—and we invite you to be part of it.

2019 National Public Lands Day Events

Fall Migration Bird Walk

Date: 9/26/2019
Time: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. CDT
Location: Upper Rock Pile Trail on the TVA Muscle Shoals Dam Reservation, Thunder Rd., Sheffield, AL 35660 (GPS coordinates: 34.79339; -87.62601)
County: Colbert, AL
Description: Join TVA’s Damien Simbeck and the Shoals Audubon Society for a bird walk to record birds seen during peak fall migration. Bring binoculars, cameras and cell phone with iNaturalist app (not required).
Contact: Damien Simbeck, (256) 386-2534 or djsimbeck@tva.gov

Watts Bar Reservoir Clean-Up

Date: 9/27/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. EDT
Location: Forest City Trail, Watts Bar Dam Reservation (GPS coordinates: 35.625852, -84.777504)
County: Meigs, TN
Description: Join TVA and the Watts Bar Lake Association for a litter pick-up on TVA’s Forest City Trail. Bring water, snacks and wear closed-toe shoes and gloves.
Contact: Contact Scott Ledford, (865) 632-1326 or wsledford@tva.gov

Loyston Point National Public Lands Day

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Loyston Point Trail (GPS coordinates 36.27004, -83.9677)
County: Union, TN
Description: Join the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, REI and TVA for trail maintenance. Bring water, snacks and wear closed-toe shoes and gloves. Lunch will be provided. Meet at the main trailhead parking lot.
Contact: Brian Ross, (865) 632-1354 or beross@tva.gov 

Worthington Cemetery/Cedar Barrens Trail National Public Lands Day     

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Elza Park Gate, Oak Ridge, TN (GPS coordinates, 36.047729, -84.207059)
County: Anderson, TN
Description: Join the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and TVA for an invasive plant Weed Wrangle to remove encroaching vegetation from the trail and in the cemetery. Bring water, snacks and wear closed-toe shoes and gloves.
Contact: Angela Sutton, (865) 632-1316 or ampolly@tva.gov

Marbut Bend Trail, Public Lands Day Nature Walk               

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. CDT
Location: Marbut Bend Trailhead parking lot, 26790 Buck Island Rd., Elkmont, AL 35620 (GPS coordinates: 34.91162, -87.10682)
County: Limestone, AL
Description: Join TVA’s Damien Simbeck for a public education event about wetland diversity and importance.
Contact: Damien Simbeck, (256) 386-2534 or djsimbeck@tva.gov

Native Plant Garden Work Day

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. CDT
Location: TVA Muscle Shoals Dam Reservation Native Plant Garden, Thunder Rd., Sheffield, AL 35660 (GPS coordinates, 34.78248458610, -87.65657903440)
County: Colbert, AL
Description: Help us remove invasive plants, weeds and debris from garden and plant new vegetation.
Contact: Mark Morrissey, (256) 314-7608 or mtmorrisey@tva.gov 

Flint River Conservation Association Semi-Annual River Cleanup

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Meet at Regions Bank, 6639 Highway 431, S. Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763
County: Madison, AL
Description: Join the Flint River Conservation Association for their annual cleanup! Please contact Soos Webber at (256) 539-3747 to confirm your attendance and if you are bringing a canoe or will need one.
Contact: Soos Webber, (256) 539-3747

Lenior City — Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful River Cleanup

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Lenior City Park
County: Loudon, TN
Description: Living Lands & Waters will be partnering with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and TVA, bringing five boats to take volunteers to clean up litter along Fort Loudon Lake shorelines. Space is limited; please register at https://www.keeptnriverbeautiful.org/lenoircity.
Contact: Melinda Watson, (865) 632-1329 or mawatson@tva.gov 

Lake Nottely Improvement Association’s Fall Lake Cleanup

Date: 9/28/2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Poteete Creek Campground, 7686 Poteete Creek Road, Blairsville, GA 30512 (GPS coordinates 34.56544, -84.05487)
County: Union, GA
Description: All supplies for cleanup are provided. We just need eager hands to help clean up the shoreline. Trash is collected from predetermined areas, loaded on the boats and left at a predetermined location for local agencies to dispose of later.
Contact: Kemmy Garrett, (828) 837-4553 or kgarret5@tva.gov

Knoxville — Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

Date: 9/29/201
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. EDT (breakfast at 9:30 a.m.)
Location: Concord Marina
County: Knox, TN
Description: Living Lands & Waters will be partnering with Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and TVA, bringing five boats to take volunteers along Fort Loudon Lake shorelines. A volunteer breakfast will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Lakeside Tavern prior to the cleanup. River cleanup volunteers will receive free entry to this breakfast. Following the breakfast, volunteers will walk down to Concord Marina. Space is limited. Please register at www.keeptnriverbeautiful.org/knoxville
Contact: Melinda Watson, (865) 632-1329 or mawatson@tva.gov

Guntersville — Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

Date: 10/4/19
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Guntersville State Park Lodge (GPS Coordinates: 34.395267, -86.204964)
Description: Join the City of Guntersville, Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful and TVA along Guntersville Lake shorelines. A volunteer breakfast will take place at 8:30 a.m. at the State Park lodge prior to the cleanup. River cleanup volunteers will receive free entry to this breakfast. Following the breakfast, volunteers will walk down to help with the cleanup. Please register at www.keeptnriverbeautiful.org/Guntersville as space is limited. NOTE: This is limited to 12 people as this is how many will fit in boat – you must RSVP!
Contact: Melinda Watson, (865) 632-1329 or mawatson@tva.gov

Tennessee River Rescue

Date: 10/5/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Chickamauga Dam Day Use Area (GPS coordinates: 35.09658, -85.22437)
County: Hamilton, TN
Description: Join TVA for the annual clean-up at the Chickamauga Dam Day Use Area as part of this popular regional cleanup event.
Contact: Mark Odom, (423) 876-6864 or mlodom@tva.gov

Norris Lake Cleanup

Date: 10/5/2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 1 p.m. EDT
Location: Public launch site on Oak Grove Rd.
County: Anderson and Campbell, TN
Description: TVA joins with the Norris Lake Project Team to concentrate on the Cove Creek area in Anderson and Campbell County. Volunteers will be cleaning up the lake shore near the launch site and on nearby islands. Boat transportation will be provided but if you a have boat, you are welcome to bring it. Please register online at: http://www.norrislakeproject.com/cleanupregistrationformoakgrove/.
Contact:  Julie Graham at infor@9lakeseasttn.com to register 

Cherokee Reservoir River Cleanup, Cherokee Lake Users Association Lake Cleanup             

Date: November 9
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Location: Gilmore Dock & German Creek Marina
County: Jefferson, Grainger, Hawkins and Hamblen, TN
Description: Cherokee Lake Users Association, TVA, Carson Newman University and several local marinas are teaming up for the Fall Clean Up.
Contact: Donna Dunn, 631-495-0031 or cherokeelakeusers@gmail.com

Volunteer Any Time!

At TVA, volunteering isn't just for special days. You can help out any time you have the time. Our trails and shorelines can always use a little more TLC. Click here to find out what you can do to help.