Port Royal State Historic Park stands out as one of the most historically significant TN State Parks. Located on 30 acres in Adams, TN, near the Kentucky border, the park has been a site for a wealth of significant sites and events throughout the state’s history.
The town of Port Royal was one of the first towns in the state, established one year after TN statehood, in 1797. The town first gained notoriety as a central location for the TN tobacco trade. Located on the Red River, Port Royal served as a tobacco inspection point, as well as the site of a flatboat yard that saw mass transportation of the plant downstream to New Orleans.
With this history of tobacco trade comes a history of slavery. Enslaved people were a huge part of the tobacco industry in the South and in Port Royal, providing labor that propelled the success of the business and the prosperity of the area. The park highlights this unjust system of slavery that built Port Royal through its park’s educational and interpretive programming.
The town also holds significance to the Trail of Tears. Port Royal was the last stop in Tennessee for the 10,000 Cherokee people who were displaced from their native territories by the Trail of Tears. A portion of the park is now dedicated as part of the National Trail of Tears Historic Trail.
Port Royal’s prosperity waned after the Civil War and the coming of the railroad, which made transportation by boat less popular. Today, visitors can engage with the complex, heartbreaking, and important aspects of Port Royal’s history through interpretive programming, tours, and walking trails throughout the park.
History buffs should be sure not to miss out on the park’s guided historical tours that will transport them back in time to understand the town’s role in significant events in TN and beyond.
Port Royal’s guided tour, “From Commerce to Collapse”, invites park visitors to explore the town’s rich history. The one-long tour is available on weekend days and takes visitors on a “journey through history” as experts relay facts about the town’s role in significant events for the state of TN and the nation’s history.
Focused on events that led to the development and collapse of the town’s success as an industry haven, the tour touches on events such as the tobacco industry, slavery, the Cherokee Removal, and the Black Patch Tobacco War.
There is a small fee for the tour. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time on the park’s website.
Interested in bringing a school group to the park to gain an immersive experience learning about the area’s history?
Port Royal State Historic Park offers an immersive interpretive program to school groups, designed for children ages 8-12. During this programming, students learn about Cherokee history, the Trail of Tears, and Cherokee removal. The programming encompasses several different activities that will keep students engaged and inform them on this important aspect of TN and Port Royal History.
Check the park’s website for more information and booking details.
After taking a guided tour of the park or participating in immersive programming, visitors can make their way to two short walking trails that offer more opportunities to explore the park’s history.
The River Bottom Trail is .5 miles long and is rated easy. This trail connects to the park’s portion of the National Trail of Tears Historic Trail and meanders through a forested river bottom.
The Hopson Spring Branch Trail is .2 miles long and is rated easy. Walkers start on Port Royal’s historic Main Street and walk through the town’s downtown before following along the Sulphur Fork Creek.
Both trails’ locations along river bottoms causes them to flood in heavy rain. Check weather conditions before attempting to walk along these trails.