Unicoi State Park and Lodge is a state park located in the U.S. state of Tennessee, on top of Bald Knob Mountain near Jacksboro. The park was built as a private retreat for Knox County’s elite in 1939 by Oscar Newstrom (1871-1938), an industrialist who made his fortune in concrete construction. In 1945, it became a state park when Knox County donated 1,000 acres (4km2) to the Department of Conservation. It has since grown to 3,936 acres (1,593ha). Located at the end of Lookout Mountain Road in Oak Hill, about ten miles from Knoxville, the park overlooks Knox County, including Knoxville itself.
The park includes two lakes, Lake Lajoie and Little Joe’s Pond, which offer opportunities for swimming, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other typical outdoor recreational activities. A lodge built into the side of the hill offers overnight accommodations for those with access to air conditioning and hot water. There are more than 20 miles (32km) of paved roads within the park, along with numerous trails for walking, running, bicycling, and horseback riding. The park also features three playground areas. On Friday, February 16, 2011, severe thunderstorms swept through the area, causing damage to the park. According to a report filed with the National Weather Service, there were multiple fatalities, and much of the park was destroyed.
An official announcement regarding the fate of the park was not made until March 24, 2012, nearly a year after the event. At that time, it was reported that $10 million had been pledged toward rebuilding the park, with plans to reopen by summer 2013. As of April 26, 2014, work continues apace on the reconstruction effort, with crews focused on shoreline restoration and trail clearing this spring. Much of the former campground remains closed due to dangerous tree conditions, but backpackers may use one of the four designated backcountry campsites free of charge. Other improvements being made include new lake lighting, expanded parking, and upgraded picnic shelters. Some amenities will be provided by the state during the recovery period, such as electricity and potable water; others, like cabins, will remain closed indefinitely.
When complete, the park hopes to have recovered enough to begin charging admission fees again. Camping season opens on June 15 and concludes on October 31. Backcountry sites cost $8 per night per vehicle. Each site can fit up to five people and their personal vehicles. No dogs or horses are allowed in the backcountry. Campsites with utilities available have access to flush toilets, shower facilities and a sanitary dumping station. Tent and RV camping only accommodates people with reservations. Overnight guests must register at the front desk. Day use and group tenting facilities are open all year long. Group reservation fee is waived for all groups of 10 or less. Additional single person campsite are scattered throughout the park and can be reserved online through the park reservation system.
Reservations can be made any time, however, spaces are limited and availability is dependent upon space availability. Half of the campsites are available on a first come, first served basis. Camping costs are $6 per vehicle per day. Annual camping permits, valid at any state park in Tennessee, are also available. They can be purchased at the park office. Boat camping is permitted on both Lake Lajoie and Joe’s Pond. Toilets and showers are accessible at both lakes. Waterfowl hunting is permitted in season in Lake Lajoie. Hunting groundhogs, cottontail rabbits, white tail deer, raccoons, opossums, muskrats, ducks, geese, and turkeys is prohibited.
Joe’s Pond provides excellent crappie fishing, especially in the late spring and early fall. Crappies weigh between 2 and 5 pounds (0.91 and 2.3kg) and reach record size of over 6 pounds (2.7kg). Fishermen may encounter largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, bullhead, sucker, carp, and hybrid striper/carp. Lake Lajoie allows boaters to fish for channel catfish, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, northern pike, and frog leg crayfish. All anglers need to have a license issued by the state. Non-powered boats such as canoes, kayaks, johnboats, and inflatable rafts are common sights on the waters of Lake Lajoie. These non powered boats do not require electric motors and fuel cells. Any boat may be used as long as it is properly registered with any state. Powered boats are restricted to using engines no larger than 50 horsepower (37kW).
If you plan to take your boat out beyond the boundaries of Lake Lajoie, then you will need to purchase a permit from either the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency or the United States Army Corps Of Engineers. Lake Lajoie does not allow alcohol to be consumed while boating. Boats are required to wear life jackets that are approved by the Coast Guard. Many different types of wildlife inhabit the park, so caution should be taken when approaching wild animals. White tail deer frequently roam around unafraid of humans, whereas black bear and eastern gray squirrels tend to avoid humans.Birds of prey frequent the area, and many hunters go to the park to pursue them. Due to the large amounts of food that are readily available in the park, these animals rarely fear humans. However, visitors encountering aggressive animals should try to stand downwind and make plenty of noise so as to scare off any potential attackers.
- mountain biking
Animals that lives in the park includes:
Common game species include:
- ruffed grouse
- eastern gray squirrels
- wild turkey
- white tail deer
- American black bears