More than 260 acres of history-filled pastureland in East Tennessee make up one of the state’s most moving attractions – Red Clay State Park. Situated near Cleveland, Tennessee, this site is most notably remembered as the last seat of the Cherokee national government prior to the removal of the Cherokee people in 1838. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in the tragic Trail of Tears, a journey which started at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga.
From 1832 to 1837, eleven Cherokee general councils were held at Red Clay. It was at these hallowed council grounds that the Cherokee learned they would be forced to leave their beloved home in the East Tennessee mountains for a new home out west.
The main attraction of Red Clay is the Eternal Flame of the Cherokee Nation. A plaque above the flame explains that it is a memorial to the Cherokee who suffered and died along the Trail of Tears. The flame was brought back from Oklahoma during the reuniting of the Eastern and Western Cherokee Nations on April 6, 1984. According to Park Ranger Erin Medley, the flame symbolizes the spirit of the Cherokee, which will forever be a part of Red Clay.
A replica of a Cherokee farmhouse, cabins and a council house along with period artifacts and exhibits housed inside an interpretive center are also on the grounds, offering visitors some insight into the lives of the Cherokee people during the 1800s.
Red Clay’s other major attraction is Blue Hole Spring, a sapphire-blue pool that produces 400,000 gallons of spring water each day. The park also boasts two well-marked trails for nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Council of Trees Trail is a 1.7 mile loop trail located behind the park’s amphitheatre. The Blue Hole Trail starts at the spring and travels .3 miles to the farmstead.
Lecture Symposium, April 18 – Visitors are invited to hear lectures from Cherokee experts on a variety of topics.
- Dr. Anne Rogers from Western Carolina University will discuss the effects of European influence on the Cherokee culture and traditions.
- Lamar Marshall of Wild South will speak on the landscape of the Cherokee nation in the 1700s and 1800s.
- Anita Finger Smith, genealogist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will discuss the importance of genealogy and explain how to get started.
Tri-Council, late July – All three federally recognized Cherokee tribes will hold their council meetings at Red Clay, marking the first time all three have met at the park. The council meetings will be held at the park’s replica council house.
Other Cherokee-related sites can be found on the Passport to Explore Cherokee Heritage brochure and map.
Budget-friendly: Admission to Red Clay is free, but the historic value and natural beauty are priceless.