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Lower Clear Creek Road is closed

  • Norris Dam State Park is a lonely spot right now as it remains closed as part of the Tennessee response to the coronavirus crisis. All Tennessee state parks are closed. This is the entrance to the west side of the Norris Dam park on Friday, April 10. Curiously, the state of Georgia is keeping its state parks open to accommodate people who want to get outdoors during the crisis -- but is asking everyone to observe social-distancing guidelines. - G. Chambers Williams III

  • With people off school and work because of the stay-at- home order, this most likely dad and daughter duo found time to do a bit of fishing in the Clinch River below Norris Dam on Friday, April 10. - G. Chambers Williams III

Passing along Norris Freeway might offer an unexpected sight these days, as Lower Clear Creek Road that leads to the Norris Watershed and the roads and parking areas of Norris Dam State Park has been closed.

This is part of the larger effort in response to Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 23, according to an official release by the State Parks division of the Department of Environment and Conservation. So what all is closed?

Trails and scenic overlooks (except the east overlook at Norris Dam); public restrooms and bathhouses; most parking lots (except at the Norris Dam Visitors Center and the lot at the base of the dam); picnic areas and shelters; playgrounds; most open areas, fields, forests, and undeveloped areas; boat ramps managed by Tennessee State Parks; visitors’ centers; park offices; assembly halls and recreational buildings; some marinas; camper check-ins; seasonal operations; and leased operations.

All of these were to remain closed until at least April 14, but with cases of the coronavirus continuing to climb and Anderson County experiencing its first death from COVID-19, it’s doubtful the parks will reopen anytime soon.

The city of Norris, though, has decided to keep the watershed open to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

So the question is, if the Norris Watershed is open, why is Lower Clear Creek Road closed?

Scott Hackler, the city manager of Norris, explained:

“Lower Clear Creek is closed, and that’s because the state park is closed and the gristmill area there is part of the state park. The only way we had to close access to the gristmill was to close Lower Clear Creek Road.”

The city closes the trails to motorized traffic every winter and has decided to leave them closed for the time being, and although horseback riding is still allowed, the only place to currently unload horses would be Upper Clear Creek Road.

“The motorized trails, the High Point, Boundary Trail, etc., are closed during the winter anyway, and we’re leaving them closed for now,” he said. “So basically the watershed is only open to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.”

Hackler said that despite staying open for some activities, traffic in the watershed has been greatly reduced.

“Last weekend wasn’t bad, but the weekend before that was absolutely full,” he said. “TVA is closing a lot of parking lots right now, too. There’s only two TVA parking lots that remains open, and that’s across from Clinch River Brewing and across from the powerhouse itself.”

The city is watching the situation closely, and will take more action if needed, he said.

“We’re just watching it day to day. If people start getting into too big a group, we’ll have to take more action.

“We’ll just keep watching it.”

Hackler said that anyone who wants to keep up to date should keep an eye on, where he’s keeping an up-to-date map on what areas remain open to the public for different activities.