The Tennessee Valley Authority is offering a range of programs this summer to welcome visitors to area public lands, lakes and parks.
“We’re doing a public awareness campaign of TVA-cations, a presentation of all the things that you can do in the valley that are free or at low cost,” said TVA Public Relations Spokesman Scott Brooks.
The agency has put together six vacation packages of daytrips around the state.
The regions are Valley Frontier, (Bristol-Kingsport-Johnson City area), Heart of the Valley (Near Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains), Mountain Lake Region (at the conjunction of southeast Tennessee, western North Carolina and north Georgia), River Gorge Region (Chattanooga area) the River Shoals Region (North Alabama) and the River Plains Region (Western Tennessee and southwestern Kentucky).
“TVA has a lot of public lands that is available for affordable public recreation that people can do year-round. One thing TVA is trying to do is make people more aware of recreational opportunities that are available for them to use,” said Ben Bean, Program Manager Reservoir Land Use and Permitting.
TVA has partnered with National Geographic to create an interactive map that shows places to stay and things to do. Currently there are 1,400 entries on the map.
“This is a partnership with National Geographic to promote eco-tourism in the Tennessee Valley,” Bean said.
Within the region, the vacation packages highlight the features of specific areas with the TVA-cation.
The #TVAfun is a social media program that allows the public to share their best photos of adventures on TVA land for a chance to win prizes.
Each month there is a different theme. Submit to TVA’s social media sites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and at the end of every month, the best photo will be selected for a prize. Each monthly winner will be in the running for a GoPro camera grand prize at the end of the season.
“This is the third year we’ve [held this contest] and it’s gotten more popular,” Brooks said.
“We get hundreds of entries and certainly get some from here at Tims Ford,” he added. “We want to see as many as we can get from around here.”
Bean noted that Tims Ford has a blueway kayak and canoe trail system.
A map online shows water access points, historical points and great locations to view wildlife.
Twin Creeks Marina was recently opened with food, gas and boat rentals.
While less developed, Normandy Reservoir also provides water recreation opportunities such as fishing, boating and kayaking.
Lake levels at home to stay full
Normandy and Tims Ford reservoirs will remain at summer pool levels for the immediate future.
River Operations Support Manager Darrell Guinn said that February’s heavy rainfall of 11.6 inches broke a monthly record that dates back to 1939.
He said the wet spring months created high headwater levels at both local reservoirs, but that the system worked as it was designed to prevent downstream flooding.
“One other thing that rainfall did was allowed us to fill all the reservoirs to summer pool leading into Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “We’re glad to have everybody in a good position with that.”
Full summer pool levels reduce the chances of boaters running aground or getting caught in submerged stumps and debris.
Up-to-date lake levels can be found at the TVA Lake Info mobile app for iPhones and Droid devices. New features include interactive Operating Guides, recreation release schedules and all the latest news from TVA.
Not too far, yet not too close to home
If getting away from it all is a draw, TVA offers choices for recreation across the state.
The nearest TVA monitored trail is at Little Cedar Mountain, near Jasper overlooking the Nickajack Reservoir.
According to TVA information, the 3- to 4-mile loop’s difficulty is moderate.
The site boasts 320 forested acres with cedar, redbuds and post, red and blackjack oaks and features boulder fields, rock walls and limestone outcroppings.
The optional Pond Trail, passes a wetland forest pond that supports amphibians, salamanders and insects, like dragonflies, that lay eggs in the water.
To get there, take exit 158 on I-24, and turn left.
For more recreation opportunities, Raccoon Mountain offers trails, urban adventures and picnicking locations.
If floating the Duck has begun to bore, try a paddle through downtown Chattanooga along the Lower Tennessee Blueway. The route begins below the Chickamauga Dam and continues 48 miles to the Nickajack Dam through downtown Chattanooga. Link to outdoorchattanooga.com/learn/maps-and-navigation/ from the TVA website at TVA’s Tennessee Valley Water Trails.
While at the site, look for Paddle Pointers for advice on kayak safety.
For more information, visit tva.org.