After Cherokee were forcibly removed from their homes they were marched to temporary camps and forts. The next phase sent them to larger departure camps in Tennessee. Cherokee were assigned to detachments that were organized by military or Cherokee leaders. The first three military-led detachments left on the water route, but disease, desertions, and fatalities caused Cherokee leaders to request permission to organize their own removal
detachments and travel overland. You can visit several
of the departure locations.
These sites also provide a glimpse of the Cherokee homeland.
This itinerary connects to the Find Your Park! Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama rack card. Click here to view the rack card.
Helpful websites to plan your Tennessee itinerary
Trail of Tears NHT Places to Go
Trail of Tears NHT Tennessee brochure
Several of these sites are also listed on the Cherokee Heritage Sites in the Southeast Tennessee publication.
Note: Several sites have street addresses in Georgia. These sites are grouped with Chattanooga, Tennessee, for day trips.
Not all sites have phone numbers or websites.
1. Audubon Acres, Chattanooga
Audubon Acres, also known as the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary, contains 120 acres of natural preserve along South Chickamauga Creek. A log cabin on the property known as Spring Frog Cabin is said to have been the home of Drowning Bear, a Cherokee full blood who was removed on the Trail of Tears. The sanctuary is owned and operated by the Chattanooga Audubon Society, Inc. At Audubon Acres, visitors can learn about the typical agricultural life and level of acculturation experienced by the Cherokee at the time of removal. The visitor center has exhibits on the Brainerd Mission site and on Cherokee culture.
This preserve is located at 900 North Sanctuary Road in East Brainerd, which is a suburb of Chattanooga. From I-75, take Exit 3A to E. Brainerd Road - East. At the second traffic light, turn right onto Gunbarrel Road. Follow Gunbarrel Road as it becomes North Sanctuary Road until it reaches the dead end at Audubon Acres-a distance of about two miles from East Brainerd Road.
(423) 892-1499, call for hours
2. Brainerd Mission Cemetery, Chattanooga
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions developed the area surrounding the site originally as a mission within the Cherokee Nation. The property, buildings, and improvements were purchased from John McDonald, the grandfather of Cherokee Chief John Ross. The mission was the principal mission among other, smaller ones within the Cherokee Nation, and served as a training ground for American Board staff. At the height of its operation, the developed mission complex consisted of 50 acres, and contained some 40 buildings including boarding houses, boys' and girls' schools and churches, houses, a mill, barns, warehouses, carpenters' and blacksmiths' shops, as well as extensive fields, gardens, and orchards. During removal, the missionaries sympathized with the Cherokee-most missionaries accompanied those that voluntarily removed before the 1838-1839 forced removal on the Trail of Tears, seeing removal as the way to save Indian culture. On August 18, 1838, the last church service was held at the Brainerd Mission near the cemetery. The mission subsequently closed.
Today, the site of the Brainerd Mission is mostly covered by the Brainerd Village shopping center. What remains is the cemetery, owned and managed since the 1930s by five local Chattanooga chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the one local Chattanooga chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. To commemorate Brainerd Mission's history, there is an exhibit at the site.
The cemetery is just under an acre and is located off of Brainerd Road and Eastgate Loop Road in the Brainerd Village Shopping Center. View the map on the following website:
3. Browns Ferry Tavern, Chattanooga
Cherokee leader John Brown, who owned 640 acres in this area, ordered the construction of Browns Ferry Tavern in 1803. By the 1830s, Brown's land formed the boundary of the Cherokee Nation. In 1838, the road running past this structure was the route by which two Cherokee detachments were removed to present-day Oklahoma.
This is a private residence; it is primarily important because of its history and its extant exterior architectural features. It is not open to general public visitation.
703 Browns Ferry Road, Chattanooga. From downtown Chattanooga, drive south on US 27, then go west on Interstate 24 to Browns Ferry Road (exit 175). Turn north on Browns Ferry Road and drive northeast 1.5 miles to the property.
The site of Brown's Ferry is located downslope from the tavern, along the Tennessee River one-fifth mile away. This site is also on private property and is closed to the public. However, the opposite side of this ferry landing can be reached via a publicly accessible trail, located just north of Moccasin Bend Golf Course on National Park Service land. (See Moccasin Bend below in this itinerary.)
A National Park Service sign is at the property, plus a Tennessee Historical Commission marker 3.3 miles south at the corner of Cummings Highway (US 11), Browns Ferry Road, and Kelly's Ferry Road.
4. John Ross House and Association History Museum
Cherokee Nation leader John Ross lived in this cabin between 1808 and 1827. Its location is not original; in the 1960s it was moved a short distance to the southwest. His house, now owned by a local nonprofit organization, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
The John Ross House is located near Rossville's downtown, on the south side of a lane joining Andrew Street and East Lake Avenue.
200 E Lake Ave, Rossville, GA 30741; (706) 861-3954
5. Ross’s Landing, Chattanooga
Ross's Landing Riverfront Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the site of the original settlement of Chattanooga and is considered to be an embarkation point for three detachments on the Trail of Tears. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park has signage and a statue of Cherokee Chief John Ross who owned the landing and ferry crossing from 1816 to 1826. Walk along the riverfront and think about the 2,500 Cherokee that departed from here in June 1838.
100 Riverfront Pkwy, Chattanooga, TN 37402; (423) 643-6311
6. Moccasin Bend National Archaeological District, Chattanooga
In 1838-39, Cherokees in the area were rounded up and placed in various embarkation camps to await removal to Indian Territory, today’s Oklahoma. One of these camps was located at Ross’s Landing, near Chattanooga. Several groups of Cherokees that left Ross's Landing traveled by water to Indian Territory and passed around Moccasin Bend, while two detachments marched overland across the neck of Moccasin Bend. The bend is now a part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. You can hike the Blue Blazes Trail (two-mile loop) to Moccasin Bend and have a view of Brown’s Ferry Landing across the river.
After exiting off Highway 27 onto Manufacturers Road, continue to Hamm Road and turn left. At the next intersection, turn left on Moccasin Bend Road and travel 0.9 miles. The trailhead is on the right.
(706) 866-9241 (park); (423) 322-5014 (friends)
7. Chattanooga History Center, currently closed.
For updates, visit: http://chattanoogahistory.org/
8. Hiwassee River Heritage Center, Charleston
Location: 8746 Hiwassee Street (US Hwy. 11/State Hwy. 2)
Telephone: (423) 665-3373
Access: Open to the public; call for hours
Historical Significance: This visitor center and art gallery, opened in May 2013, is owned by the Charleston-Calhoun Hiwassee Historical Society and is managed in conjunction with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The facility features a large number of interpretive panels that tell the story of the Trail of Tears in Charleston (a key removal site) and elsewhere in eastern Tennessee.
To learn more: http://www.tnvacation.com/vendors/hiwassee-river-heritage-center/
9. John Martin House, Cleveland
Location: 5640 Dalton Pike, S.E., five miles south of Cleveland, Bradley County
Access: This cabin is clearly signed near the road, and the house is plainly visible on the east side of Dalton Pike. It is privately property; not open to general public visitation.
Historical Significance: This property, and several of its improvements, is linked to Cherokee leader John Martin. Martin built the main house (on the opposite side of Dalton Pike) approximately 1835 after being driven out of Murray County, Georgia. Martin, who has been described as "a distinguished judge in the courts of the Cherokee Nation, and also the national treasurer," was forced to sell his property in 1837, just prior to the Cherokee Removal.
Available Facilities: The present residence, originally built in the "dogtrot" style, is a log structure that was later sheathed with milled lumber. It was moved to the present site in 1950. It is a privately-owned residence.
10. Red Clay State Historic Park, near Cleveland
Location: 1140 Red Clay Park Road SW near Cleveland in Bradley County. It is along the Tennessee-Georgia state line about 17 miles east of Chattanooga.
Phone: (423) 478-0339
Access: Open to the public; call for hours
Historical Significance: Blue Hole Spring, a natural landmark in the park, was used by the Cherokee for their water supply during council meetings.
Available Facilities: The 260-acre park contains a visitor center (James F. Corn Interpretive Center), theater, library, amphitheater, picnic shelter, and hiking trails. Replicas of 19th-century Cherokee buildings include a council house, farmhouse, barn, corn crib, and three sleeping huts. Wheelchair-accessible parking, restrooms, trails, and other facilities are available. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Bureau of State Parks, manages the site.
Exhibits: Visitor center exhibits interpret day-to-day Cherokee life in the early 1800s, also the Cherokee removal. A video about the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears is shown. Artifacts are displayed, including prehistoric stone implements.
To learn more: www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/RedClay/
11. Cherokee Removal Memorial Park and Blythe Ferry, Birchwood
Location: 6800 Blythe Ferry Lane, Birchwood, 37308
Access: Open to the public; call for hours
Historical significance: Cherokee Removal Memorial Park is a multipurpose facility dedicated to those that died and those that cried in what has become known as the "Trail of Tears". The park is intended to interpret and educate the public about the forced removal of the Cherokees from their ancestral land as well as inform them about the unique wildlife in the area, and provide recreational opportunities. The Park is located at the mouth of the Hiwassee River where it joins the Tennessee River which has been a significant cross road for development of Indian culture for centuries.
Facilities: Visitor center, restrooms, exhibits, trail, history wall, memorial wall, amphitheater
12. Hair Conrad Cabin, Cleveland
Location: 433 Blythewood Road S.W., two miles west of Cleveland, in Bradley County
Telephone: (423) 476-8942 (Blythewood Farms)
Access: This cabin can be clearly seen on the east (upslope) side of Blythewood Road. This is a private residence; normally not open to the public, but a visit can be scheduled by calling Blythewood Farms at the above telephone number.
Historical Significance: Hair Conrad was a Cherokee leader during the 1820s and 1830s. In 1838, he was selected to lead the first Cherokee detachment, which traveled the main (northern) route from Rattlesnake Springs (near Charleston, TN) to Indian Territory. This 20-foot by 22-foot two-story cabin was built about 1804, and except for the later addition of a kitchen, this log building still looks much as it did during the 30-plus years that Conrad lived here.
To learn more: www.southeasttennessee.com/www/docs/778.2676/
Find Your Park! Itinerary for Tennessee