The Segregated State Park

Tennessee is a beautiful state with amazing state parks. Parks that range from high mountain peaks to the Mississippi delta, from battle fields to Native American burial grounds, from gorgeous blue lakes to diverse river systems. There’s just so much beauty and variety. So, I’ve made it a goal of mine to visit every state park in Tennessee in 2018. Below is my story of my adventure at one park.

The day, which had begun cool and damp, had turned into a perfect evening full of sun and warmth and the promise of spring on the breeze. It beckoned me to get outside and explore someplace new. So I decided to add another state park to my list- Booker T. Washington State Park.

Booker T. Washington State Park is named in honor of the famous leader, Booker Taliaferro Washington. Born into slavery and freed by the age of nine, Washington fought throughout his life to earn a higher education. He believed that agriculture and a vocational education was the key to a better life for the newly freed slaves and is best known for being former president of the Tuskegee Institute, a black organization for higher education.

The park was actually built by African-American units of the Civilian Conservation Corps and was originally designated under segregation as one of two Tennessee State Parks for use by blacks until the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in public accommodations in the United States. That’s something I had never thought about until I read it. Even state parks were segregated! Something that, looking around the park and seeing all races and ages and sizes of groups there, is hard to imagine today.

The park is situated on the shores of Chickamauga Lake (named after the Chickamauga tribe of Cherokees), outside of Chattanooga. It’s a gorgeous location with amazing views of the lake throughout the park. The park is used for mountain biking, hiking, picnics, swimming, as a launching point for boats, and fishing. So much fishing! It was definitely the most popular activity while I was there. Lots and lots of people fishing!

Not having a fishing pole nor a mountain bike, I decided to go on a hike. The trail entered the woods from the parking lot and continued down to the water, hugging the shoreline as it wound its way around the lake. The day was perfect; a light breeze blew as birds sang high above me in the trees. The trail made a turn into a cove where two men stood fishing; a secret spot far from the rest fishing from docks towards the front of the park. I waved and continued on around the cove.

The forest enclosed me here as the trail pulled away from the lake some. Lizards scurried out of my way as I made my way along the path. I heard a rustling in the bushes beside me and turned to see two squirrels running along a downed tree, playing with each other as they darted into the brush. It was so tranquil here, quiet save for the squirrels and birds and crunching of last season’s leaves beneath my feet. I continued on until I once again made it to the lake.

The trail came to a peninsula overlooking the lake. I slid down the sandy bank and made my way the the shoreline. I’m sure this was under water many times during the year, but not now. A group of ducks floated silently off the shore, searching for food. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky causing the water to glisten all around me. Mountains, far in the distance, created the perfect backdrop while, closer to me, people still fished from the docks. I stood and enjoyed the peace as the wind lightly blew through my hair. Then it was time to head back; back to civilization that is so close to this park yet feels so far away while you’re here.

If you would like to go to Booker T. Washington State Park or learn more about it you can click here. It’s a great park to visit while in Chattanooga!

2 thoughts on “The Segregated State Park

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s