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Long Hunter Park is an outdoors treasure-trove
Mar 21, 2013 4:45 pm
Long Hunter State Park, located on the shores of Percy Priest Lake along Wilson County’s southwest boundary, is a 2,600-acre outdoors paradise.
Nestled between the Nashville metropolis and the rapidly-developing Mt. Juliet area, the park – which opened in 1978, a decade after Stones River was dammed to create Percy Priest -- is a naturalists’ bastion. It features hiking trails, camp sites, swimming areas, nature studies and boating and fishing in Percy Priest and Couchville Lake.
“In 2001 we had about 350,000 visitors and last year we had over 800,000,” says park manager Truman Mullins. “That indicates how the park’s popularity keeps growing.”
Long Hunter Park has playgrounds and picnic pavilions with tables and grills, and sites can be reserved. Designated campsites along certain of the hiking trails also can be reserved on a first-come basis at the park office. A fee is charged for overnight use.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset, year-round. The park office is open from 8 a.m. till 4:30 pm. daily (closed for lunch from 11:30-12:30). The number is 615-885-2422.
The park offers 25 miles of hiking trails. They vary in distance from a quarter-mile to 5.5 miles, and wind through eco-systems ranging from hardwoods to glades, cedar forests, shoreline and bluff overlooks.
A trail along Couchville Lake is paved to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. The lake encompasses 110 acres and has a fishing pier. Boats and canoes can be rented during the summer months, with paddles and life jackets provided. Children five and under are not permitted in the boats.
Private boats are allowed on the lake but can be powered only by paddles or trolling motors. A state fishing license is required for adults (see the Tennessee Fishing Guide for detailed regulations.)
The park has a boat ramp and parking lot for Percy Priest access.
The park teems with wildlife of various species, and during the spring and summer it blossoms with foliage of all descriptions, including the rare Tennessee Cornflower.
It also has an arboretum – a “tree trail” -- along which some 40 species of trees and shrubs are identified.
A point of emphasis for the park is educating youngsters about nature and fostering an interest in the outdoors. The Visitors Center contains a museum that includes artifacts racing from flintlock rifles and powder horns carried by the original Long Hunters who first explored the area, to stone tools used by Native Americans.
There is an impressive display of mounted animals and birds that are indigenous to the area – deer, turkeys, ducks, bobcats, foxes and a rare weasel. There is even a giant rattlesnake skin on display. (Mullins says no venomous snake has ever been reported on the park since he has worked there. Hikers and campers, however, should leave snakes of all species alone; venomous ones are dangerous and –like non-venomous species – they are protected by law.)
Nature tours and seminars about the outdoors and the area’s rich pioneer history are conducted regularly for school groups. Parents and educators can contact Mullins for information about scheduling a trip.
Long Hunter State Park is a natural treasure, preserved amid encroaching development.
A day on its hiking trails or fishing coves is time well spent.