Six miles west of Morristown in Hamblen County is the Panther Creek State Park. This 1,435-acre park features the recreational resources of Cherokee Lake, the reservoir created when the Tennessee Valley Authority built Cherokee Dam and dammed the Holston River in the 1940s. Water skiing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and picnicking are favorite activities at the park, which includes fifty campsites as well as numerous trails. Bird watching also is popular since a 1,460-foot-high ridge overview gives visitors a panoramic view of the lake and the valley. It is a popular place to observe migrating hawks and waterfowl.
The park is named for Panther Creek Springs, a landmark of the early settlement era along the Holston River Valley. The springs attracted generations of Native Americans long before the arrival of the first settlers, who allegedly named it Panther Creek Springs because one settler killed a panther there. The 1939 WPA Guide to Tennessee noted that near the spring was “a rock with a depression in which early settlers ground corn into meal with the aid of a heavy pestle attached to a beam propelled by the current of the stream.” This “‘pounding mill’ was slow, but it could be carried on without attention.” (1) At Tate’s Store near the springs, commissioners met to establish Hamblen County in 1870. Today the springs still exists, but the rural village of Panther Creek is gone, though the park serves as a memorial to the early history of the Holston River Valley.