Situated less than 30 miles west of Chattanooga on a major traffic thoroughfare, Jasper, Tenn., offers some of the state's most spectacular vistas within a short drive of bigger cities.
The county seat of Marion County, Jasper straddles Interstate 24 as it threads its way east from Nashville across Nickajack Lake to Chattanooga. Jasper also is the southern gateway to the Sequatchie Valley, a ramrod-straight natural corridor flanked by the rolling green hills of Walden Ridge and Cumberland Plateau.
-- Compiled by staff writer Casey Phillips
The Gateway to Sequatchie Valley
• Population: 3,279
• Biggest employers: Marion County Board of Education, Shaw Industries and Wal-Mart SuperCenter
• Landmarks or geographic features: The scenic Sequatchie Valley lies just north of Jasper. Nickajack Lake is just southeast of the city along I-24. The Alabama and Georgia state lines are a short drive to the south.
• Date founded: 1820.
• History: Jasper is named for Sgt. William Jasper, a Revolutionary War hero from South Carolina who was mortally wounded during a siege of Savannah, Ga., in 1779.
• Most famous residents: Former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Eric Westmoreland, former Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners pitcher Bob Long and former Cleveland Browns/Washington Redskins/Los Angeles Rams safety Eddie Brown.
• Unique tradition: Jasper promotional materials highlight residents' proximity to Chattanooga, allowing them the benefit of country quiet without sacrificing a metropolitan lifestyle.
• Unique characteristic: The Marion County Courthouse in downtown Jasper has been damaged twice by fires. The first, in 1922, destroyed the original building. The replacement burned in the 1980s and since has been restored.
Source: HistoricSouthPittsburgTN.org, Jasper-Tn.com, Mayor Billy Simpson
BEST THING TO DO
Better By Water -- Nickajack Lake lies just to the southeast of Jasper along I-24. The lake has 215 miles of shoreline, and its 10,000 acres of water are popular among weekend boaters and anglers in pursuit of the next big catch.
• Nearby Hales Bar Marina (1265 Hales Bar Road, Guild, Tenn.) offers boat rentals, cabin rentals (both floating and on land), a restaurant and, most recently, an 18-hole miniature golf course.
• Fall color cruises stop at the marina on a two-hour trip along the Tennessee River Gorge, a waterway full of breathtaking views.
Carol's is a locally owned eatery with a menu that's rife with home-cooked, country-style delicacies. (3525 Main St., open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.)
• Lunch prices are $5.95 for a meat and two vegetables, $6.95 for a meat and three vegetables.
• Be sure to try the southern fried chicken, fried catfish or meatloaf.
History on display
The Jasper Regional History Museum (715 Phillips Ave.) offers a look back at the area's history via artifacts ranging from Civil War memorabilia and antique furniture to handmade quilts and a collection of American Indian items.
• Admission to the museum is free, but the facility accepts donations.
• Museum hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Group tours available by appointment at 423-942-5103.
Source: Marion County Chamber of Commerce
Fair to sizzling
• Jasper July 4th Celebration -- The self-proclaimed largest fireworks display in the Sequatchie Valley often incorporates secondary activities, such as a softball tournament. (Downtown, July 4 or the closest weekend, dusk.)
• Marion County Fair -- Jasper plays host to this weeklong event featuring a wealth of activities, ranging from cow patty bingo, exhibitions of livestock, talent shows, rides and music. Past headliners include Billy Joe Shaver and Jett Williams. (Behind Dairy Queen, 4955 Main St., early September.)
Source: Jasper-Tn.com, MarionCountyFair.com, SoutheastTennessee.com
Railroading city hall
The building now used as Jasper's town hall (4460 Main St.) was once a depot for the historic Sequatchie Valley Railroad.
• The rail line was founded in 1860 and eventually stretched from Bridgeport, Ala., to Pikeville, Tenn., serving as a vital means of delivering supplies needed during the development of the Sequatchie Valley.
• Although repurposed, the Jasper depot is one of only two from the line, besides the Bridgeport terminal, that have survived.
• The town hall may be reached at 423-942-3111.
Source: Jasper-tn.com, HistoricSouthPittsburgtn.org