Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Visit to Red Clay State Historic Park in Cleveland, Tennessee

Red Clay State Historic Area tells part of the story of the Cherokee Indians. It is off of the beaten path in a quiet section of Tennessee. The park is above the Georgia line at 1140 Red Clay Park Road in Cleveland. Use the links in the resources section for directions.


Those unfamiliar with Red Clay State Historic Park need background to appreciate the Cherokee history found here. This was the last Council Ground before the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma via the Trail of Tears. Red Clay State Historic Park brings this Cherokee history to life.

My daughter and I visited Red Clay State Historic Park on a weekday when parking is plentiful. The air conditioned visitor center has a porch and rocking chairs. On the end of the building is a gazebo and interpretive plaque.

The gazebo gives a good view of the 263 acres of Red Clay. Standing there brought back many memories of playing there as a child. There are wooded areas, fields, buildings, a creek and the famous Blue Springs.

From March to November the center is open Tuesday - Thursday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. It is open from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm on Sunday and Monday. Hours at any park will change without notice. Those wishing to see the visitor center at Red Clay State Historic Park should call 423.478.0339 to verify hours before arriving.

Blue spring at Red Clay
Leading out from the gazebo at Red Clay State Park is a wide, accessible trail. Getting around on hot days is difficult for me. The trail made it possible for both my daughter and myself to explore the park and learn more about Cherokee history.

Our first stop on the path was at the small windowless cabins called the Sleeping Huts. There are no windows but open doorways allow air to enter inside. These were for Cherokee leaders and guests.
Beyond these buildings is a Cherokee farmstead. The style of Cherokee farmsteads varied. The historic building on display is a two story home with windows on the front and sides. Steps lead up a raised platform onto the wide porch at the front door.

An field at Red Clay State Historic Park is beyond the farmstead. The paved path winds around the field and goes to a creek before going by the famous Blue Springs. It is here that a shaded short footbridge passes over the creek. This spot is several degrees cooler than the fields at Red Clay State Historic Park. We were glad to stand here and enjoy the coolness.

The Blue Spring received its name because of the blueness of the water. The temperature is cool enough that watermelons are often placed here to cool for family gatherings.

The visitor center at the Red Clay State Historic Park is an interpretive center and bookstore. Staff there was extremely helpful and patient. She answered my questions about Red Clay and distant family history the best that she could.

I was surprised to find that Red Clay State Historic Park is a genealogy research center. It holds copies of several documents that visitors can use for Cherokee related research. There is no fee and nothing can be removed from the park.

My daughter caught up with me at the center. Even though we didn't bring lunch we decided to explore the picnic area. There are shaded tables and a pavilion that can be rented. Food isn't available but there is a soda vending machine at the visitor center.

Families can spend an afternoon or all day when visiting Red Clay State Park. We enjoyed our visit here and will be back soon.