We spent the 4th of July week at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tennessee, just 30 miles west of Nashville. Having never been to Tennessee, I was so excited to see the sights. Our first day there turned out to be an unusual one! With an unusually large amount of sheriff’s department, park rangers on foot and on horseback, and a large mobile trailer labeled ‘Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’ we thought maybe we had missed the banjo music or they were raiding stills in the area! Lol. Turns out the annual convention for the “National Solutions Conference” rented out the conference center, inn and restaurant in the state park for the weekend. This is a White Supremacist group and they had the KKK grand wizard, David Duke, as the keynote speaker along with speakers from “Make America White Again” and South African white nationalists. As you can imagine huge protests were expected and the police force was there to keep the peace. Our campground was full and thankfully away from the convention center so we were not involved except for the experience. We were in town shopping, etc. so we were able to miss most of it.
We learned that Tennessee was just under Virginia for having the most skirmishes during the Civil War. This was considered a gateway state for both armies into the other side’s land and resulted in more than 64,000 Confederate soldiers and 59,000 Union soldiers who died here. The monuments and markers of this time in history were everywhere and we tried to see as much as we could between exploring the park, rain, hot and 80+% humidity days, hungry mosquitoes and enjoying the 4th of July!
We spent 2 days exploring Nashville. Downtown Nashville has lots of public parking garages and only a couple for big dually trucks like ours so we ended up walking many miles to see the sights. We started with the Tennessee State Museum, thru the Capital Mall to the State Capital. We found out interesting info, such as how Tennessee is considered to be the start of the westward expansion from the original 13 states. ‘Longhunters’ like Daniel Boone were friendly with the Indians while hunting and brought back all their stories. This led to ‘Overmountain’ people which were the pioneers traveling thru the Appalachian Mountains who followed the Indian trails and started settling the area. We also learned a lot about the lives of slaves in this area, the civil war and then the difficult reconstruction years. Freed slaves searched for family members and had an especially hard time in Tennessee and a lot of violence towards them. The Klu Klux Klan was born here during that time and I guess that’s why there is still such a presence of it here today.
After our history lessons we walked down 4th to Broadway and surrounding area into ‘Music City’. The Ryman Auditorium, River Front Park, the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Music City Center, Bridgestone Arena, etc. and tons of fun and historic bars and restaurants. It was hot and fun with lots of country music!
Another trip into the west side of Nashville was a day touring President Andrew Jackson’s home called The Hermitage. The mansion has been restored to perfect condition from when he lived there with the original furniture, flooring, wallpaper, etc. and even his slippers in his bedroom. The tour guides for the mansion dress in period clothing but a audio tour and maps helped us navigate the entire site. Everything has been so well preserved, the history and the stories from the audios help you understand exactly how life was in the 1800’s for the Jackson family as well as all their slaves and even after the civil war. We learned a lot about “Old Hickory”, as a soldier at 13 years old who later was held as a prisoner in the American Revolution. He career led him to become Major General and leader of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 then on to become our 7th President.
Closer to Montgomery Bell in Dickson, Tennessee was the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum. Dickson was a huge boom town after civil war troops completed the railroad with 13 tracks converging in front of what later became Hotel Halbrook in 1913. We found out this hotel catered to the traveling salesmen who traveled the railroad. A bath cost a whopping .25 cents while a room cost .75 cents per night, with lots of rooms being shared by up to 4 men at a time to save money! The hotel was very well preserved with the original wood flooring and tin plated ceiling panels. Lots of history here of the reconstruction and boom of the town after the civil war, the huge iron industry, lives and struggles of communities of freed slaves, and the life of the Clement family who managed the hotel and later the son, Frank, became the Governor of Tennessee. Our tour was capped off with a great miniature train display and town recreation which took up two rooms! Our grandsons would have loved this!
In conclusion, we really enjoyed all we learned and saw in Tennessee! However, we didn’t really connect with this park or the campground so probably won’t come back here. Next time, we would like to visit the eastern part of the state and hopefully not in the summer!
Site Quality: Asphalt roads with a mix of asphalt or crushed gravel pads.
Type: State Park
Access: Relatively easy access from US-70 (a bit North of Interstate 40) on Jackson Hill Rd. With a larger rig it’s best to enter from the North entrance off US-70. There is a South entrance but he roads leading there are narrow and winding.
Staff: The staff were friendly and helpful.
Amenities: Large site (site 68) that was in a lower area that protected it from wind during storms but also limited a breeze when hot. 50A power with water. Some sites are full hookup. Each site had a picnic table and a fire ring. There were restroom/shower facilities that seemed to be clean and in good repair. The park also had WiFi but we did not use it.
Cellular/WiFi: Verizon and AT&T were both good at about 30 Mbps for AT&T and about half that for Verizon.
What we liked: Beautiful tree covered sites. Large park with plenty of room to walk. Site 113 would be good. It was a very long site in the full hookup area and on the river. Be cautious though if flooding is possible.
What we didn’t like: No sewer at our site although some sites do have sewer. No satellite or local channel reception because of the tree cover and being in a lower point in the park. The lower ground did protect us from some of the weather though. Sites and roads are narrow and navigation between trees with a big rig can be difficult. The park was crowded and the sites close together but it was during the July 4’th holiday.
Verdict: The was not one of our favorite state parks due to the amount of sites crammed into a small area. They also didn’t stop people from parking wherever they wanted so that contributed to the congestion of the park. The restaurants in the area that we tried were not that good, in particular the Inn in the park was “institutional” food when the web site made it look like something more. The bottom line is we could stay here again if needed but we’d likely look elsewhere.