Cast for bass, explore a Civil War battleground, and lounge on a lakefront beach.
Thanks to the Tennessee Valley Authority and its dam-building prowess in the 1930s, vast reservoirs are scattered across the Volunteer State. Like most of them, Pickwick Lake is a hotspot for outdoor recreation, with bass fishing, boating, swimming, tubing, and water skiing among its top activities. Stretching 53 miles from southwest Tennessee across Mississippi and Alabama on the Tennessee River, Pickwick Lake’s shoreline is dotted with campsites, as is the surrounding countryside. Fun fact: A literature-loving postmaster named the area after a Charles Dickens’ novel, the Pickwick Papers, in the mid-1800s.
South of Pickwick Dam, Pickwick Landing State Park is watersports central, with a marina and an array of boat rentals, including kayaks, canoes, fishing boats, and pontoon party barges. Landlubbers may prefer to play the 18-hole golf course, try their hand at disc golf, or stroll the two easy hiking trails. Campers will find lakefront tent sites and RV sites. North of the river, the Bruton Branch State Recreation Area has primitive tent sites, most of them by the water.
For more tent and RV campsites, check out the small towns and farms near the lake and the Tennessee River in southwest Tennessee. Glamping options—think cabins, Airstream rentals, and horse farms—are plentiful too, and many have boat ramps. Top small towns for camping include Counce, Savannah, and Henderson, and the TVA manages the 92-site Pickwick Dam Campground in Savannah.
Skinny Pickwick Lake stretches from Tennessee into the northern reaches of Mississippi and Alabama, where waterfront campgrounds are just as recreation-focused as their neighbors in Tennessee. Cabins and campsites are close to both the lake and the Tennessee River at J.P. Coleman State Park, which is perched on a lakeside bluff in Mississippi.
Home to the National Civil Rights Museum, blues-playing Beale Street, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and a booming food hall scene, Memphis is a full-immersion destination. Not far from the city and close to the Mississippi, campgrounds, RV parks, and glamping destinations are plentiful on farms and forestlands. Memphis is 120 miles west of Pickwick Lake, while Jackson, another urban launchpad, is 60 miles north of Pickwick Dam.