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Parksville Lake, also known as Ocoee Reservoir, is one of three reservoirs in Polk County near Cleveland,TN. Together the reservoirs run through some of the most beautiful country in Tennessee and provide visitors with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Parksville Lake is the largest of the three reservoirs, and it is impounded by the Ocoee No. 1 Dam on the Ocoee River. The other two are Ocoee No. 2 and 3. Completed in 1911 by the Tennessee Electric Power Company, the dam was built on the Great Smoky Fault and was one of the first hydroelectric projects in the area. The Tennessee Valley Authority acquired Ocoee No.1 and 2 in 1939 and built Ocoee No. 3 in 1942 to produce power for WWII.
In addition to supplying reliable power through three plants below the three dams, the Ocoee River is one of the ten best whitewater rivers in the country. There is exceptional whitewater below Ocoee No. 2. There is a five mile long wooden flume that carries water from Dam No. 2 to Powerhouse No. 2. The flume is on the National Register of Historic Places. When the flume was closed for repair, the TVA released water directly into the riverbed creating exceptional whitewater. After the flume was fixed, the TVA made arrangements to periodically release water to maintain the popular whitewater condition. The Ocoee Whitewater Center is below Ocoee No.3 Dam. The 1,500 foot long Center was the site of the 1996 Olympic Slalom Canoe/Kayak Event. Today there are several outfitters that can supply rafting trips for visitors.
Those preferring quieter water will find plenty on Parksville Lake. With almost 2,000 acres of water and several creeks feeding the lake, there are plenty of places to paddle and boat. Anglers will find lots of fish to challenge them including black, largemouth, and spotted bass. There are several public boat ramps and a marina, along with designated swimming and picnic areas.
Most of the land surrounding Parksville Lake and the other two reservoirs is managed by the US Forest Service as part of Cherokee National Forest. Tennessee's only national forest, Cherokee National Forest covers about 630,000 acres and is Tennessee's largest tract of public land. The forest was created in 1936 when President Roosevelt combined parts of two national forests and a division of a third. The Civilian Conservation Corps was instrumental in bringing back the parts of the forest that suffered from too much logging and intensive farming.
The Ocoee Scenic Byway travels through Cherokee National Forest and past Parksville Lake. The first National Forest Byway in the nation, it is 19 miles of US Hwy 64 and 7 miles of Forest Service Road 77. It's a beautiful way to explore the forest and lake and extends to the Old Copper Road. Wagons used the road to transport to transport copper ore down the Ocoee River Gorge to the railroad in Cleveland.
The name Ocoee is Cherokee for "apricot vine place." It is a name as colorful and interesting as the area around the river and dams that are named for it. Whether you prefer the excitement of whitewater or the calmer exploration of auto touring, Parksville Lake and the surrounding area is sure to have something to please everyone.
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