Joe Wheeler State Park is located on the shores of the 69,700-acre Wheeler Lake in northern Alabama, 50 miles west of Huntsville. The park is named after Civil War general "Fightin'" Joe Wheeler, who lived and fought in the area and consists of 2,550 acres acquired from the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1949. In 1973-74, a major investment in the park included the addition of a lodge, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by the renowned Earl Stone, and a clubhouse. In 2009, the park and lodge had 131,000 visitors, annual operating expenses of $3.7 million, and a staff of 62 people.
The park features three distinct areas on both sides of the Tennessee River. The main area—near Rogersville, Lauderdale County—includes convention facilities with rooms that can seat up to 500 people and a lakeside patio for outdoor gatherings. In addition to the convention center, a 75-room waterfront lodge and restaurant overlook a full-service marina with 140 slips, a fuel station, and fishing and grocery supplies. Boat launches in this area are located at the lodge, near the cabin area, on Elk River, and at Wheeler Dam. Pontoon boats, fishing boats, and paddle boats may be rented at the marina. The second area, located just east of the main facilities on the Elk River, includes a group lodge with accommodations for 30 people, and the third area, south of the Tennessee River near Wheeler Dam, offers rustic cabins, tennis courts, a boat launch ramp, and a recreational area.
The main park area on the north side of the Tennessee River offers 116 campsites, including an improved campground with water and electric hookups and, to the south, a separate primitive campground for tent campers near a nature trail. Overnight visitors also may rent one of the 10 lakeside cottages or one of the park's cabins in the southwest corner of the park, some of which overlook the water on the park's unit on the south side of the river.
Wheeler Lake is a popular regional destination for anglers, and bass, bream, and catfish are abundant, particularly in the tailwaters below Wilson Dam. A record smallmouth bass was caught in the churning water below the dam. White bass, hybrid striped bass, saltwater stripe (also known as "rock fish"), and crappie are also present in good numbers. The park is a frequent stop for boaters on Wheeler Lake, and the marina accommodates speedboats, houseboats, and sailboats. Great Loop Cruisers Association hosts its annual rendezvous and conference every year at the park. The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that circumnavigates the eastern portion of North America, along the Atlantic Seaboard, across the Great Lakes, through inland rivers, and around the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 250 boats dock at Joe Wheeler's marina during this conference.
The park has a 2.2-mile hiking and biking trail as well two and a half miles of dedicated hiking trails on which visitors often meet up with the park's large herd of deer. Additional facilities include picnic areas, pavilions, a beach and swimming area, tennis courts, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and a swimming pool.
Thomas V. Ress
Published June 17, 2010
Last updated November 19, 2012