Campground Review: Old Stone Fort State Park, Manchester TN

More than just a river nymph…she’s my soulmate

Dates: June 13-25, 2015

Campsite: 30

Overall Score: 3.7 (out of 5)

Summary: We chose this state park because it’s just a 20-minute drive from my parents’ home in Tullahoma. We’re spending a significant amount of time with them this summer as my mom has advanced bile duct/liver cancer and is under hospice care. Our typical morning was spent hiking/jogging/exploring the park and then we headed to Tullahoma to have lunch with my parents and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with them. The park has excellent hiking trails, waterfalls and swimming holes, along with some Native American history.  We definitely plan to return.

Recreation/Amenities: 4.5 – The 7+ miles of hiking trails feature some waterfalls, swimming and fishing holes, and elevation changes. To reach the best swimming hole, take the Old Stone Fort Enclosure Trail clockwise from the museum ¼ mile, and then descend the second set of steps and follow the path to the river. The best hiking trail is the Little Duck River Loop Trail which features a beautiful river, a moderate climb, and a ridge. I caught (and released) 4 bass and 11 blue gill where the Duck River meets the Little Duck River along the Forks of the River Trail.  Lil Jan sat near me on the cooler, reading her Christian fiction and occasionally looking up and calling my attention to a large fish that should be caught.


Hookups & Connectivity: 3.5 – electric, water, and dump station (partial hookups). No Wi-Fi, cable TV, or sewer connection at site.  (We managed to go all 13 days on a single black tank…which ultimately resulted in what could only be described as a massive dump upon exiting the park.)

Local Vicinity Things to Do: 3 – aside from the huge annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, there’s not much happening within 15 miles of the park…aside from small town festivals, antique stores, etc. In fact, the “9th best” thing to do in Manchester according to TripAdvisor is the movie theater…and there isn’t one!  However, the park is built on/around the “Old Stone Fort” which was built (by Brian Williams) 1500-2000 years ago during the Middle Woodland Period. Native Americans used it as a ceremonial gathering place and eventually abandoned it. When the European settlers arrived, they didn’t know what the area was used for and mistakenly named it a fort. According to the park brochure, it is considered the “most spectacularly sited sacred area of its period in the United States and the largest and most complex hilltop enclosure in the south.” (narrowly edging out Graceland, I presume)  The park museum contains photos, dioramas, an orientation film in the theater, displays of prehistoric Native American replicas, and a gift shop.


Cleanliness: 3 – while the campsites are well-maintained and the bathhouse showers had hot water, the bathhouses themselves were fairly rustic and showed signs of wear (to include some moldy shower curtains).

Intangibles: 4.5 –

Pros – proximity to Steve’s parents and Arnold Air Force Base. We got to spend an awesome father’s day with them and Steve’s sisters and some of their families. Quiet campsite. Museum on grounds. Saw several deer, possums, rabbits, and squirrels while hiking. Good spacing between campsites, which are fully shaded. Golf course next door. The staff offers guided nature/historical tours on the weekends. . $22.20/night.

Cons – rustic bathhouses are adequate but could use some sprucing up.  Couldn’t pick up any local tv channels with the antenna, but then we’ve pretty much weaned ourselves off of tv.  Didn’t catch any of the fish Lil Jan pointed to.


For more information…

Big Steve



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4 thoughts on “Campground Review: Old Stone Fort State Park, Manchester TN”

  1. Janet…you might just become a water baby if Steve keeps taking you to all those beautiful water sites….so glad to see you all are having fun:)

  2. Lil Jan in the Little Duck River.
    How appropriate.
    Looks, sounds wonderful.
    What, no critique of the golf course !!!!

  3. So happy to be able to follow you guys on this adventure-of-a-lifetime journey. Keep the posts coming! Where is the next arrival spot? Love you guys. Brad

    1. Hey Brad! We are currently spending a few days with the in-laws in SC, and will then return to TN on Wed to attend the Lipscomb Lectures and celebrate the 4th with the family. Depending on how my mom is doing, we’ll head north in late July/early Aug to visit Kyle in Missouri. Cave-In-Rock SP in southern IL is a potential stop on our way to MO. We’re kind of taking it a day at a time. Miss you guys!

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