Tennessee sings praises of its outdoors tourism

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has more than 300 species of fish, with bass, crappie and catfish awaiting hungry anglers.

The Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Trail offer scenic spots for ambitious hikers.

Or you can shoot the rapids on the Ocoee River or go camping just about anywhere across the state, including backcountry camping at 12 state parks.

It’s no wonder the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is promoting the state’s plentiful outdoor opportunities this spring.

Elvis, Dollywood and the Grand Ole Opry are not Tennessee’s only attractions.

The department has launched www.spring.tnvacation.com to highlight fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and other activities. The site also is sponsoring outdoor-adventure-inspired contests, with the grand prize three ultimate fishing getaways throughout Tennessee, one of them a trip with famed fisherman Bill Dance.

Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the department, said Tennessee’s outdoor activities and music make it easy to market the state, which has up to 50 million visitors a year.

She said Tennessee brings to mind “scenic beauty and so much variety to do and the music. Those components you will see in everything we do.”

Jackie Van Cleave, a fishing guide at Reelfoot Lake for more than 30 years, said both fishing and duck hunting are awesome on the earthquake-created lake in northwestern Tennessee.

“It’s full of bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish. It’s just an easy lake to fish,” he said.

People from around the world come to Reelfoot to fish and hunt, Mr. Van Cleave said.

“I’ve had ‘em from Russia, China, Korea; you name it, I’ve had ‘em,” he said. “The fishing and duck hunting are so good, they come, have a good time and go back and tell others.”

Additionally, the sprawling lake is a prime location for bald-eagle watching. Then there are nearby game preserves full of deer and turkey.

“I can’t think of anything else to ask for,” Mr. Van Cleave said.

Peter Olsen, vice president of the Washington-based American Hiking Society, has hiked the Great Smoky Mountains and encourages others to do so.

“It was a phenomenal area, beautiful and well-maintained,” he said. “It was a nice experience and just what you hope for when hiking.”

For a 4,100-foot walking trail, Rock City Gardens atop Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga draws nearly half-a-million people from throughout the world every year.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said Tennessee fish represent one of the most diverse collections in North America. There are 29 major reservoirs and 19,000 miles of warm- and cold-water streams.

The Appalachian Trail covers 284 miles along the state’s eastern border, mostly within the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nine million people a year visit the 500,000-acre Smokies, making it the most popular national park.

The state’s push to publicize itself as an outdoor paradise is not a major departure from stressing Tennessee’s music.

“The staff certainly realizes music and outdoors are regularly vying for the top spot among travelers to Tennessee,” said Cindy Dupree, spokeswoman for the tourism department.

Mr. Olsen, reflecting on his hike in the park, said Tennessee can reap rewards from its campaign.

“Outdoor recreation has huge benefits for tourism,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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