Roane County occupies a unique perch in the Tennessee Valley, sheltered by the Cumberland Plateau to the west and in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains to the east. Comprising five distinct communities and swaths of land in between, it’s an outdoor playground for those vacationing in East Tennessee. Its county seat, Kingston, brims with green space galore with a wide variety of things for families to do.
Roane County’s location at the crossroads of two major interstates makes it easily accessible for a large population of the country traveling by car. For those arriving by plane, it’s only a half-hour from McGhee Tyson Airport in Alcoa, just south of Knoxville.
Intrigued by this diverse landscape cozied up to the Appalachian Mountains? Here are some fun facts about Roane County to keep in mind as you plan your next trip to Tennessee.
It’s Got 56,000 Acres of Recreation Area
Roane County’s shining jewel is Watts Bar Lake, an expansive 39,000-acre lake with more than 700 miles of shoreline, much of it untouched and undeveloped. Tennessee’s mild temperatures mean you can make the most of many of Watts Bar Lake’s recreational offerings – including boating, sailing, waterskiing and fishing – year round. Roane County is also an access point on the Tennessee RiverLine, a continuous trail that snakes its way along the Tennessee River from its formation in Knoxville to the confluence of the Ohio River in Kentucky.
There’s No Shortage of Parks and Trails in Roane County
With 16,000 acres of public parks and wildlife areas, 30 miles of paved or marked trails, and a dog park, Roane County takes its outdoors seriously. Those who prefer swinging a club or tossing a disc to exploring by foot can take advantage of the five golf courses and two disc-golf courses, as well as the many other sports facilities sprinkled throughout Kingston and Oak Ridge.
It’s Got a World-Renowned Laboratory, Too
While the pull of the outdoors in Roane County is worth the trip alone, East Tennessee is also a serious STEM hub with a century’s worth of impressive science and technology history. It’s pumped out some of the greatest advances in nuclear technology, thanks to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest multidisciplinary science and energy laboratory in the country. The county is the gateway to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, where you can learn all about the top-secret efforts of the development of atomic weapons between 1942 and 1945 and how 75,000 workers arrived seemingly overnight to populate the town. Two of the Manhattan Project sites also live in the Roane County side of Oak Ridge.
Roane County Comprises Five Interesting Communities
While Oak Ridge and Kingston are more well known outside of Roane County, its three other historic towns are worthy of a deeper dive as well. The planned community of Harriman dazzles with Victorian architecture –100 properties of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places – and antiquing aplenty. A former coal mining town, Oliver Springs, too, is widely known for its collection of pre-1900s buildings. In Rockwood, much of the activity revolves around recreation because of easy access to both Watts Bar Lake and Mount Roosevelt Wildlife Management Area.
Live Music Pulses Through Roane County
Tennessee is celebrated for its musical attributes, from bluegrass and country to Americana and folk, and Roane County follows suit, showing off its artsy side around every bend. With live music nearly every night of the year, there’s plenty to experience no matter when you visit.
Roane County is also home to more than 450 festivals and events annually like the Tennessee Medieval Faire in Harriman each October, the Rockwood Thunder Road Festival & Car Show in April, the October Sky Festival in Oliver Springs and the Smokin’ the Water July 4th Festival, the county’s largest event, held in Kingston.
So, plan your trip to Roane County to get a taste of the outdoors, lively music, fun festivals and interesting historical museums.