Camping records set at Tennessee State Parks in 2020 as people 'stay home' outdoors

Fall Creek Falls, Harrison Bay, Tims Ford among top five for camping nights sold in October, November

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Matt Harthan, from Minnesota, cooks some bacon outside of his camper at Harrison Bay State Park on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee State Parks posted the highest numbers ever for people camping at the parks.

In the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, record numbers of people "stayed home" in tents, campers and RVs they took with them to Tennessee's state parks.

Camping in the last two months of 2020 reached historic highs in state-run parks, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that oversees them. Four of the top 10 camping months ever in state parks happened in 2020, most likely driven by visitors seeking the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, TDEC Commissioner Jim Bryson attributed the surge to the search for well-being.

"The impact of COVID-19 simply underscores a growing awareness that the outdoors are a sanctuary for mental and physical health," he said. "The appeal of louder, busier, and crowded entertainment venues has given way to the space, freedom and connection the outdoors provide."