Campground Review: Arnold AFB FamCamp

Dates: July 8-29, 2015

Campsite: 10

Overall Score: 4.2 (out of 5)

Summary: This rustic, lakeside military campground has a lot of things going for it, and thus is our top scoring campground to date. However, it’s only open to government employees (active, retired, reserves, and DoD civilians). If available, choose RV sites 17, 36, and 18, in that order. If primitive camping, it’s hard to beat site T1, where you could conceivably catch fish from inside your tent…although that would not make a lot of sense.

Along Hiking Path, Woods Reservoir
Along Hiking Path, Woods Reservoir

Recreation/Amenities: 4.6 – Located along the shore of Woods Reservoir, a 4000-acre wilderness lake that provides water for the testing/engineering activities at Arnold AFB. Fishing is superb…supposedly the 3rd best crappie fishing locale in the state of Tennessee. I caught a 3-foot long catfish and dozens of bluegill. (Catfish should not be eaten due to high PCB levels. Also true for catfish caught in ponds near Fukushima, Japan.) Boat rentals are available, ranging from kayaks to ski and pontoon boats. The campground features a beach area, picnic pavilion, horseshoes, a playground, and hiking/biking/horseback riding trails (see link below). Easy drive to fitness center (weights, racquetball courts, etc.), a paved 1.5 mile walking/jogging trail, a larger beach area, commissary/BX, golf course, etc., at Arnold AFB.

Hookups & Connectivity: 4.2 – electric, water, and dump station (partial hookups). Laundry facilities. Free Wi-Fi! No cable TV or sewer connection at site.

Rutledge Falls
Rutledge Falls

Local Vicinity Things to Do: 3.2 – within 15 miles, you’ll find the small towns of Manchester, Winchester and Tullahoma (restaurants, antique stores, small town life). Closer in, you have the previously covered and very affordable things to do on Arnold AFB. Our two favorite Tullahoma stops involved, not surprisingly, hiking. First up, Rutledge Falls features a short, steep descent down to a beautiful waterfall and swimming area. From there, you can hike downstream either beside the creek or in the creek (wear water shoes) for more than a mile. Butterflies were everywhere (cool!) and some of them feasted on a dead animal in the water (not cool!). Next up, the Short Springs Natural Area features 4.5 miles of hiking trails, including the Machine Falls Loop. The up and down climb to the cascading Machine Falls is well worth the effort. In Manchester, we recommend lunch or dinner at the eclectic 50-year-old Jiffy Burger, featuring delicious burgers (imagine that) along with an impressive display of collectibles (mostly toys), music memorabilia, and other nostalgic décor. If you are willing to drive further, you will of course find a host of things to do in the Nashville metropolitan area…more on that in a future blog.

Machine Falls
Machine Falls

Cleanliness: 4.3 – well-maintained campsite and facilities.

Intangibles: 4.7

Pros – close proximity to Steve’s parents and Arnold AFB activities. Very affordable…just $12/night. Quiet campsite. Fabulous views, right on the water. With just one marina, the lake is very un-crowded. Fun fact: Arnold AFB is home to “the most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities in the world”…including “43 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels, rocket and turbine engine test cells, space environmental chambers, etc.” (My presence brought the number of wind tunnels to 44.)

Butterfly Landing Zone, Machine Falls Loop

Cons – the campsites are lined up right next to each other…very little spacing or natural barriers. The on-site convenience store is only open on holiday weekends. The campground is off the beaten path, a good drive from any major roads…which could be a plus or minus for you.

Update – due to my mom’s health situation (stage 4 liver cancer, under hospice care), we decided to park the RV at some friend’s house at a nearby lake and move in with my parents for her remaining days. We appreciate your prayers as we care for her, administer the medicine, and encourage my dad as best we can. It has been an emotionally draining time, but God is good all the time and we trust his plan and timing as it relates to my mom.

Big Steve

Biking/Hiking Trails…

Near Rutledge Falls
Near Rutledge Falls
As the deer...
As the deer…
Alright, kids, everyone out of the water!
Alright, kids, everyone out of the water!
Creek walkin' with my lady
Creek walkin’ with my lady


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4 thoughts on “Campground Review: Arnold AFB FamCamp”

  1. Sounds like a great campsite! Praying for you all. These days are hard (not because I’ve endured it, but watching Bev and Terrie with Ann last year), but we would try and brighten the days with funny memories. You two have plenty of those! May God throw a blanket of calmness, peace and comfort on you all. We love you and miss you like crazy!

    1. Thank you, Deb! It has been a difficult couple of months, but the ending was peaceful with all the family gathered together. We are truly blessed. We miss you guys too!

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