My first stop in rediscovering my hometown starts at Red Clay State Historic Park. Red Clay is in the southwest corner of Bradley County and stretches over 263 acres. Although I have always lived in Cleveland, I have no memory of ever visiting the park, which is why it was the first on my list to visit!

Red Clay is full of rich history as it was the last seat of government of the Cherokee Nation from 1832 until 1838 where the council repeatedly voted against U.S. removal treaties. In 1835, a small faction of Cherokee, known as the Treaty Party, signed the Treaty of New Echota which ceded the remaining Cherokee land in return for land in Indian Territory, which is current-day Oklahoma. This treaty was considered illegal in accordance with Cherokee law, but the U.S. Senate recognized it as valid. Some say that the Trail of Tears originally started in Red Clay because this is where the Cherokee first learned that they had forever lost their land.

The park itself has a lot to offer, including building replicas, hiking trails, picnic facilities, and activities carried out by the park ranger. There are two main trails at Red Clay, Blue Hole Trail, and the Council of Trees Trail. These trails are all pretty easy ranging from 0.20-1.7 miles. Blue Hole Trail is the shortest trail that takes you through the Blue Hole Spring. The spring creates a deep pool from underneath a limestone ledge and it flows into Mill Creek. Blue Hole Trail is also the trail closest to the building replicas which help to better understand how the Cherokee would have used the land. Off of the Blue Hole Trail, a short connector trail leads to the Council of Trees Trail, as well as a picnic shelter and amphitheater.

If you plan ahead there are educational activities with the Park Ranger almost every day. Some of these include learning about Cherokee folklore, participating in park tours, and learning the roles women, children, and men played in Cherokee society. The area is also great for bringing dogs or children since there is a large flat space to run around. When I visited, only two other people were there, so if you’re looking for a peaceful place this summer try Red Clay Historic State Park!


*** Emily Locke is a student at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Travel and Tourism. Emily is originally from Cleveland and is serving as an intern this summer in the Tourism Development Division of Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. She is “Rediscovering Her Homeown” with the eyes of a visitor.