BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL)– As the region continues to see gorgeous weather and sunny days, many people like to enjoy all the region has to offer when it comes to nature.
Bristol, Tennessee has several parks where you can do just that but perhaps the most notable is Steele Creek Park.
The more than 2,200-acre park features numerous activities- plus, you can learn a few things during your visit. It’s actually the third-largest municipal park in Tennessee.
“This was to be Watauga State Park. This was actually purchased by the Department of the Interior and given to the state of Tennessee to be a state park,” said Parks and Recreation Director, Terry Napier.
The city leased the property from the state and it was deeded to Bristol in 1964.
“We’ve been able to maintain our park where it’s affordable for everybody. There’s a two-dollar fee to bring a car through the gate and that just helps us keep the roads paved and upkept,” said Napier. “We have multiple parking lots around the park where you’re welcome to park and walk into the park.”
It offers 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, disc golf and traditional golf.
“It is a nine-hole course but we do offer 18-hole rates. Wednesdays are our most popular day. It’s our Wednesday play-all-day special. So, it’s $20 to play as many rounds as you need,” said Park Programmer, Beth Carter. “We have specials on Fridays for seniors and Tuesdays for ladies so you get reduced green fees.”
Steele Creek Park Trail Maps
One of the park’s most popular attractions is the Steele Creek Express- a 1964 steam engine that takes you on about a 15-minute ride through the park’s nature.
“It is definitely a kids favorite. They all take pictures with it, they’ll get their train conductor hats, they’ll have little train whistles and we get a lot of repeat customers,” Carter said.
The dollar train ride takes you alongside the 52-acre lake, where people can kayak or paddle boats. Those rentals also start at a dollar.
“It’s a dollar per person for a thirty-minute ride. We have 8 boats and then two ADA boats so we have options with a cover, without a cover,” said Carter. “We’re never going to offer astronomical prices for concessions or opportunities to do fun things. We’re all about just wanting the kids to come out and play, have big family activities and just overall enjoy nature and the recreational opportunities this park has to offer.”
People can also experience the park inside the nature center.
“Everything in the nature center interprets the natural history of Steele Creek Park and the surrounding area,” said Nature Center Director, Jeremy Stout. “Exploration should begin here and hopefully will invite them to go explore the park after they walk out the doors.”
It’s open seven days a week year-round and offers programming and exhibits.
“As you walk through the front door the first thing that you find are all of our aquatic animals- turtles, fish, a few amphibians centered around an aquarium island and then we have simulated forest exhibits with some of the reptiles and amphibians you can find on land,” said Stout. “We’re so happy to offer hikes, seminars, programs, workshops for all ages and activity levels. Whatever you’re interested in, we offer programming year round and most of our programming is free with park admission.”
The Nature Center’s work extends beyond the park.
“There are also conservation efforts and research efforts that are happening behind the scenes so our naturalist staff are also trained scientists and so we’re engaged in a lot of fascinating research projects solving some of the mysteries of the universe,” Stout explained.
The park also has playgrounds, splash pads, fields and shelters for rent.