Standing Stone State Park in Tennessee
Tennessee is divided into three distinct areas: the mountains of the east, the rolling hills of middle Tennessee, and the Mississippi Delta area of the west. Between the mountains of the east and the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee is an area called the Cumberland Plateau, one of the best and most underrated areas of the state. Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area in this part of the state rivals the Smoky Mountains and is not nearly as crowded. It’s also much less commercial in the surrounding area.
Nestled in the middle of the Cumberland Plateau is a small state park called Standing Stone State Park. This park stole my heart many years ago. The park covers nearly 11,000 acres in the north-central area of Tennessee and is known for its outstanding scenery, spring wildflowers, fossils, and other natural diversity. It centers around a 69-acre, man-made lake with a 300-foot stone and concrete dam. Ridges and high hills rise above the lake on all sides.
The History of Standing Stone
The park takes its name from the Standing Stone, a 12-foot-tall rock standing upright on a sandstone ledge that was supposedly used as a boundary line between two Native American nations.
When railroad workers blasted the stone into small pieces, local tribes of Native Americans incorporated a piece of it into a monument that still stands in the nearby town of Monterey, Tennessee.
Many of the structures of Standing Stone were built during the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program, a works project program designed to help bring the country out of the Great Depression. The old stone dam with a one-lane bridge, and many of the other stone structures, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Project Administration.
Workers in the New Deal programs also built many of the cabins in the park out of the timber from the area. Much of this timber at the time was chestnut trees so the cabins were largely built of chestnut logs. Since there was a blight in the area that killed the chestnut trees, it is a delight now to stay in the well-constructed log cabins. Some more modern cabins have been built in succeeding years, but I always choose to stay in the rustic log cabins.
Places to Stay in the Park
I love the history of the rustic log cabins and the beauty of the craftsmanship of the buildings. Until recently these cabins could only be heated with a wood-burning fire in the massive stone fireplace. For this reason, they were not open during the coldest part of winter. They now all have gas logs in the fireplaces, but I miss the wood-burning fireplaces and the ambiance they created.
Seventeen of the historic WPA cabins that accommodate four to eight people are available to rent. Three of them have heat and are open year round. The remainder are open April through October. The park also has seven three-bedroom deluxe cabins that are open year round and sleep eight to 10 people.
Besides these cabins, there are three group cabins and a group lodge that accommodate larger groups. The lodge can accommodate up to 48 people. It is in a secluded area which makes it great for group retreats.
The park also offers 36 tent and trailer sites for camping, each equipped with a picnic table, charcoal grill, and water and electrical hookups. The seven deluxe cabins are equipped with televisions, but none of the other accommodations have televisions, microwaves, or internet connections.
What Does One Do Without Televison or Internet or Video Games?
We spent several days in one of the rustic cabins last year with our two oldest granddaughters, ages five and six, with no TV, no video games, no internet, and no radio. We were totally unplugged, except for our cell phones. They never complained. We spent our days playing games like bingo and dominoes, swimming in the pool, hiking the beautiful trails, and picnicking beside the lake. And on the last day we were there they had a talent show for us in the outdoor amphitheater. Since this was the end of the summer season, the park, which is small anyway, was almost deserted.
One day as we picnicked below the dam, the girls were enjoying playing and exploring in the creek. As we were leaving the area, we stopped to talk to an elderly man in his 90s whose son had brought him there to fish in the creek. He had grown up in the area and remembered when the park was developed. He shared his memories with us as the girls watched him fish. When he finally landed a small fish, he let the girls feel of it. They thought it was a little slimy.
What would be your favorite activity in this park?
Other Activities at the Park
- Swimming in the Olympic-sized swimming pool
- Hiking on 8 miles of trails and exploring the area
- Playing on the well-equipped playground
- Renting one of the aluminum fishing boats or paddle boats on the lake or bringing your own kayak or canoe for use
- Listening to the barred owls heard around the cabins
- Watching the American Goldfinch and Common Yellowthroat birds in the fields managed as meadows or the Red-eared Sliders, and the painted turtles and Great Blue Herons the lake
These activities make televisions seem a little superfluous.
Rolley Hole Marble Championship Annual Event
In September each year, Standing Stone is host to the famous National Rolley Hole Marble Tournament, the largest of its kind.
Rolley Hole is a team sport played on a rectangular, dirt marble yard. Incorporating elements of golf, pool and croquet, it combines strategy and aim as one two-person team competes against another.
Marbles competition is taken seriously in this part of the country. Local businesses often build outdoor courts where employees can play during breaks or after work and local municipalities construct courts for the local residents. A favorite yard, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is located in Celina, Tennessee near the banks of the Cumberland River. Another, in nearby Tompkinsville, Kentucky, is called the Monroe County Marble Club Superdome.
A Great Place to Meet
People come to this park year after year, sometimes making the reservations a year ahead. Especially in the fall, it is difficult to get a cabin. I know one family who has been having their family reunion here for about 60 years. They rent the whole park and stay for a week.
A large tea room, accommodating 80 people, is often used for wedding receptions, reunions, and conferences. It includes a large deck equipped with picnic tables overlooking beautiful Standing Stone Lake.
....Or to be alone
I live in a place similar to Standing Stone now, but when I was living and working in the city, Standing Stone was always my favorite place to come to be unplugged, with a good book, a good pair of hiking shoes, and some wood for the fireplace. It was one of my inspirations for the home I built here on a hilltop in Tennessee.
It's a short and easy drive off of Interstate 40 which transverses the state of Tennessee, so the next time you are traveling through our state, it's worth a visit.
Questions & Answers
Where is the bridge over the water at Standing Stone State Park? I've lived in this area my whole life and never seen it.
The bridge is the dam for the lake. It is down the hill from the office and cabins and is part of the road leading out of the park that way. I don't remember the number of the road but it leads out of the park.