The eastern part of Tennessee is a series of beautiful ridges and valleys topped by 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome; then the land gently slopes westward to the Mississippi River, the natural boundary between the states of Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.
Music is to Tennessee what beaches are to Miami or automobiles to Detroit. Toe-tapping Nashville, the state capital, attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. Focal points are The Grand Ole Opry and Opryland USA. On the Mississippi River, Memphis--which handles a third of the nation's crop of cotton--is the site of Beale Street, immortalized in song and story; this is where W. C. Handy composed his famed "St. Louis Blues" and "Memphis Blues."
Tennessee's primary recreation areas are in the mountains in the east and in the vast system of reservoirs that spreads throughout the state. The TVA and the US Army Corps of Engineers have transformed muddy rivers into 29 appealing lakes. There are more than 30 species of fish in these lakes and mountain streams, and the opportunities for canoeing, waterskiing, and river rafting are endless.
Tennessee also shares with North Carolina the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the 604,000-acre Cherokee National Forest. Both are ideal areas for camping, picnicking, swimming, and hiking. In fact, one of the most spectacular portions of the 2,015-mile Appalachian Trail traverses the Smokies along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a place for all seasons. Winter is a particularly exciting time to visit Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort atop Mount Harrison. Ten separate slopes cater to beginners and the most experienced skiers. On the other end of the state, a park called Festival Island is located in the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis. The park is filled with signs of Mississippi River lore and the legacy of the blues.
For a historically enlightening and beautifully scenic drive, the Trail of Tears route is recommended. Beginning 15 miles east of Chattanooga, the route follows the trail of some 13,000 Cherokee Indians uprooted a century and a half ago and marched to Oklahoma. For 260 miles through Tennessee, the trail passes Cleveland, Charleston, Dayton (scene of the 1925 Scopes Trial), Murfreesboro (where the Civil War battle of Stones River was fought), Nashville, and then into Kentucky.