Located in South Knoxville about a mile past the end of the Henley Street Bridge, Fort Dickerson Park in an unusual park that has recently received a makeover, funded by the Aslan Foundation and the City of Knoxville. The improvements to this important site in the form of a new grand entrance and communal greenspace, which not only enhances the park as a whole, but also rectifies a previously dysfunctional section of Chapman Highway where the park intersects with Woodlawn Avenue.
The park features the historic Civil War Fort Dickerson and an overlook looking out of Lake Augusta down below.
Fort Dickerson honors the Civil War battle that occurred, November 13-15, 1863. Union soldiers built an earthen fort overlooking the Tennessee River to prevent Confederate troops seizing Knoxville.
The Fort was critical to the Union defense to hold these heights from which enemy cannons could seriously damage the city. Though never assaulted, Fort Dickerson traded artillery fire with an advance guard of Confederates during the siege of Knoxville. Supplied with a road, it has been a public park since 1957. It drew thousands in 1963 when it was the site of a noisy centennial re-enactment.
Fort Dickerson is named in memory after Captain Jonathan C. Dickerson of the 112th Illinois Mounted Infantry who had died in battle near Cleveland, Tennessee, earlier in the Civil War.
Fort Dickerson is one of a series of historic forts now featured on the Urban Wilderness’s Battlefield Loop, including Fort Higley at High Ground Park, and Fort Stanley (not accessible to the public), once commonly known as Gobbler’s Nob.
The overlook, up on the high bluff at Fort Dickerson park, is named after Harold Dean Lambert, the former owner of the Lambert Brothers’ Rock Quarry, and offers impressive views of the lake below.
After the Lamberts ran the operation as a family business, Vulcan Materials acquired the quarry and managed its final stages. Harold Dean Lambert spent most of his life in the limestone quarry business and himself worked for Vulcan late in his career before retiring in 1994. Around that time, the City added the overlook area and named it in Lambert’s honor as a more passive addition to the Civil War site, Fort Dickerson. However, even then Mayor Victor Ashe was looking to the future, commenting on the potential for “Knoxville’s largest swimming pool”.
The quarry is deep, in places up to 300 feet deep or more. That’s significantly deeper than at Mead’s Quarry, another disused and reclaimed quarry in South Knoxville, now part of Ijams Nature Center. Such scars on the landscape are quite extraordinary considering their proximity to downtown. However, the past two years have been particular bad for quarry jumpers with multiple deaths in recent years at Lambert’s Quarry.
With the increase in recreational use, particularly with the emergence and popularity of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, the Lambert Quarry has attracted a lot of attention to these once-abandoned sites. Hopefully, with plans for additional trails, restrooms and a concessions building, more eyes will be on this spot on land and become a safer one.
In 2019, the quarry lake was renamed Augusta Quarry due to its new public entrance on Augusta Avenue (accessible via W. Blount Avenue).
According to outdoorknoxville.com, the park now features four miles of multi-use trails for hikers and bikers, connecting the upper part of the park where the overlook and the fort are with the lower lake section.
Fort Dickerson Park is officially located at 3000 Fort Dickerson Road SW, Knoxville TN 37920.
Special thanks to the Aslan Foundation for programmatic support.