Recreation Haven: Discover the Outdoors in Jackson, TN
Plenty of parks and recreation opportunities await residents in the Jackson, TN, area, and even more are on the way.
It is nature that has been sprawling in the Jackson region lately, as outdoor recreation opportunities are popping up in nearly every direction. From the front porch to the back woods, there is a steady procession of parks, rec areas, rivers and lakes, with a series of trails connecting them all.
“We’ve had great success with our outdoor programs, and we’re always adding more amenities,” says Tony Black, Jackson Recreation and Parks director. “The outdoor opportunities around here are immense.”
Jackson-Madison County is home to 26 public parks, eight public education and recreation facilities, two public golf courses (the year-round Jackson National Golf Club and the seasonal Bent Tree Golf Course), the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex, and multiple tennis and pickleball courts. And, Black says, much more is on the way.
“We’re working on building a $2.5 million senior citizens center, a skate park and an 18-hole disc golf course,” Black says. “We’re also developing a plan for bicycle and pedestrian paths, so we can connect our neighborhoods to all the parks and amenities.”
Middle Fork Bottoms
One of the newest parks in the region is the Middle Fork Bottoms Recreation Area. The area was created on a rebuilt flood plain approximately 12 miles north of Jackson in the city of Three Way. At 850 acres, Middle Fork Bottoms is roughly the same size as Central Park in New York City. It has five lakes (from 2 to 10 acres) for fishing and water sports and 5 miles of paved walking trails.
“There’s not really anything else of that scale like it in this area,” says engineer David Blackwood, executive director of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority. “It’s right along the Forked Deer River, and it was highly impacted by flooding. We rebuilt it, allowing us to improve the entire area for recreation.”
One of the lakes on the property is designated as a retriever lake, with topography specifically designed for dog-training purposes. Not only does this provide a service for residents who have hunting dogs, but Blackwood says it also opens up the possibility that Jackson can host one of the regional or even national retriever tournaments regularly held by the American Kennel Club and other organizations.
“It’s kind of a niche thing that we think will be good for tourism,” Blackwood says.
The park’s first phase opened earlier in 2022, with two more phases in the works that will add a 1-mile boardwalk through the forest, a visitor’s center with a conference room and retail store, benches and additional restroom facilities.
“Ever since it has opened, there’s been a constant stream of traffic there beginning early in the morning,” Blackwood says. “Some people are out there almost every day. Joggers, kids riding bikes, people fishing or just exploring. It’s a big enough and versatile enough place that there are a lot of different things for people to do.”
Come Trail Away
Perhaps the easiest way to enjoy outdoor recreation in Jackson is simply to walk outside … and just keep walking. There are numerous trails throughout the region, from simple sidewalk paths passing along quiet neighborhoods to rugged routes carved through the woods designed for biking and hiking.
One of the newest biking trails can be found at the 103-acre Pugh Bourne Park in Oakfield, where the 4.5-mile Rockabilly Ridge Trail provides enough challenging twists and hills to be recognized as an intermediate course.
Pugh Bourne Park also has a rodeo/equestrian center with a 34-stall horse barn, five lighted baseball/softball fields, two football fields, tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a playground and a half dozen picnic facilities.
Walking/hiking trails are available at Cypress Grove Nature Park, a 4,000-acre natural area with a boardwalk that winds through a 165-acre cypress forest. The park also features an observation tower, a 25-acre lake and the Aerie Trail Raptor Center for injured hawks, eagles, owls and other birds of prey.
And yet another new trail is being blazed, this one using an old railroad pathway to link Jackson to the community of Bemis about 3 miles south of downtown. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.
“It’s another way of connecting people throughout the community,” Blackwood says.
Want to know more?
If you’d like to learn more about the Jackson area, check out the latest edition of Livability Jackson, TN.