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Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

After exploring frontier life at David Crockett Birthplace State Park, go a bit further back in time at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. Only a 45-minute drive away in Elizabethton on the Watauga River, Sycamore Shoals showcases this area’s involvement in notable events before and during the Revolutionary War. (1)

One of these events is reenacted at the park each September: the crossing of the Watauga River by the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War. (2) In September 1780, British Colonel Patrick Ferguson threatened those opposing British rule: “If you do not desist from opposition to the King’s arms, I will cross the mountains, hang your leaders, and lay waste your country with fire and sword!” (3) Patriot militia gathered at Sycamore Shoals on September 25 and then marched over the Blue Ridge Mountains to South Carolina where they defeated the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain. (4) This battle is now recognized as a critical victory for the Patriots. (5)

Statue of a man pointing a rifle in front of a stone building and the U.S. and Tennessee flags in Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park
Statue Dedicated to the Overmountain Men in Front of the Visitor's Center

I read on an interpretative panel in the park a quotation attributed to “Loyalist officers at Kings Mountain” describing these Overmountain Men. (6) It says, “[These were] the most powerful men ever beheld, tall, rawboned, sinewy.” “ [They were] from the extreme backwoods…whom no labor could tire and whose rifles seldom missed their mark.” (7) What a colorful, descriptive image!

A stone marker with the silhouette of a man with a rifle and the words "Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail" in Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

The 330 - mile path the Overmountain Men marched is now the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and part of it is within the park. (8) There is a Commemorative Motor Route as well, and the Overmountain Victory Trail Association travels each year to the Kings Mountain National Military Park teaching about this event along the way. (9) The Watauga River crossing is part of this reenactment of the route. (10)

Log buildings circle a tree with a pile of dirt in the foreground in Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

In the middle of the park is a replica of the fort that was built here in 1776. (11) When I visited, the walls were under construction, and visitors could not go inside.

Blue sign attached to a pole with information about Liberty drama

Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals is Tennessee’s official outdoor drama, and it’s produced each year next to the fort. (12)

I need to visit the park again to see the museum inside the visitor’s center, and I’d like to tour the Carter Mansion a few miles from the park. (13) It’s Tennessee’s oldest standing frame house built during the Revolutionary War. (14) The park’s website has an interesting virtual tour of the house; I particularly liked reading about the paintings found above the mantles. (15)

During my visit to the park, I walked most of the Patriots Path Trail which is a little over a mile. (16) The crushed gravel on the trail makes for an easy walk. It followed the Watauga River (17), and I saw a lot of Canadian geese enjoying the water. Look for this comfortable wooden swing to enjoy the view.

On the trail is the clearing where the annual river crossing takes place. There’s an information panel and a commemorative marker near the river here. I’m told that during the annual crossing there are so many spectators it’s hard to find a spot to watch. I still hope to see it one day!

  1.; interpretative panel on Patriot Path - “Stop 4: Muster of the Overmountain Men”

  2. Interpretative panel on Patriot Path - “Stop 4: Muster of the Overmountain Men”;

  3. Interpretative panel on Patriot Path - “Stop 4: Muster of the Overmountain Men”

  4. Interpretative panel on Patriot Path - “Stop 4: Muster of the Overmountain Men”


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