Press "Enter" to skip to content

Joe Wheeler State Park’s new ‘Awesome Trail’ welcomes visitors as portion of campground set to reopen

Joe Wheeler State Park is set to temporarily reopen a section of its campground on Friday (May 22) almost six months after a tornado severely damaged the campground and Day Use Area.

Park officials also remind the public that the new Joe Wheeler State Park Scenic Trail, unofficially known as the Awesome Trail, is now open to the public.

An EF-1 tornado swept through the park on December 16, 2019, uprooting numerous trees and severely damaging the campground and Day Use Area. The lodge, marina, cabins, lakeside cottages and golf course were not damaged. There were no injuries.

Section A of the campground, set to reopen beginning Friday, features 43 full hook-up sites for recreational vehicles. The newly-renovated campground store will also be open with limited supplies.

Reservations are available online or by phone. The cost is $30 per night (plus taxes and fees).

Campground reservations may be made through the end of October, but guests must depart by November 1 in order to accommodate a major renovation of the entire campground. The campground-wide renovation project was planned before the tornado.

“We are so pleased that Joe Wheeler State Park can offer a partial reopening of our campground,” said Chad Davis, District Superintendent of Northwest Alabama State Parks. “Recovering from the tornado hasn’t been an easy task, and we still have work to do, but we’re very pleased that the relatively unscathed portion of the campground will be available for our guests.”

Meanwhile park officials encourage the public to visit and explore the new Awesome Trail, which broke ground last summer and was completed in mid-April after months of heavy rainfall.

The Alabama State Parks trail crew, led by Trails Coordinator Ken Thomas, built the eight-mile, round-trip trail with assistance from park staff and volunteers, including members of the Shoals Mountain Bike Club.

Superintendent Davis also thanked volunteers Paul Brown, of Rogersville, and Brian Wright, of Scottsboro, for their assistance, along with Phil & Shar Roos and their Year to Volunteer project volunteers who, among other efforts at the park, helped complete the installation of the trail’s 16 bridges.

Trails Coordinator Thomas noted that the Awesome Trail was constructed through a federal Recreational Trails Program grant with accessibility for a variety of users in mind.

“We tried to create a trail that could be used by walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners,” Thomas said. “The biggest consideration for making it compatible for everybody is that it had to be wide enough to support all of those folks. These type trails are wider than most trails people are used to. This allows people to walk side by side, and it has enough room that a biker or jogger could still pass.”

Certain paths of the trail are named for individuals: the Jimmy Sims Trail, Sammy Harden Loop, Luther’s Pass, and Page Farm Trail. Major access points are located in areas near the First Creek boat ramp and marina.

Superintendent Davis thanked all of the volunteers for their contributions while crediting Ken Thomas as the driving force behind the new trail.

Davis said, “Ken spent more time on this trail than anyone. He deserves the credit, from acquiring the $80,000 Recreational Trails Program grant to laying out the route, building the trail itself, and placing the bridges. This wouldn’t have been possible without Ken and his hard work.”

For campground reservations, call 256-247-1184 or visit Joe Wheeler State Park’s website.

Comments are closed.