- Population: 411,967 (2006 Census estimate)
- Founded: 1792; named after first U.S. Secretary of War Henry Knox
- County seat: Knoxville, population 182,337; oldest of Tennessee's four largest cities; Tennessee's first capital when the state was admitted into the Union in 1796
- Farragut, population 19,348; incorporated in 1980; named in honor of American Civil War Adm. David Farragut, who was born just east of Farragut in 1801; originally known as Campbell's Station, site of a fort and stage coach station
- Attractions: Blount Mansion; East Tennessee Discovery Center; East Tennessee History Center; Fort Loudoun Lake; Ijams Nature Center; James White's Fort; Knoxville Museum of Art; Knoxville Zoo; Marble Springs State Historic Site; Old City district; Women's Basketball Hall of Fame; World's Fair Park and Sunsphere
Just as Knoxville was a major player on the frontier in westward expansion, the city today stands as a center for a wide range of outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, walking, biking, and the simpler joys of bird watching.
And, if that isn't enough to whet the appetite for getting out there, Knoxville is also a historic center, with its many homes, museums and libraries. In fact, in a couple of years (2010), Knoxville will host the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, bringing in about 2,000 genealogical-hungry people, who will peruse the McClung Historical Collection, one of the finest research libraries of its kind in the nation.
Without straying too far from the downtown area, there's Blount Mansion, Ramsey House, Mabry-Hazen House, First Presbyterian Church and cemetery, and the East Tennessee History Center. That's just for starters.
Knox County itself is the heart of the Tennessee Valley, and over the years has acted as a central crossroads, first with the Tennessee River, which derives from the conjunction of the French Broad and Holston rivers, and in modern times to the multiple interstate highways that connect with the county's boundaries.
In addition, Knox is one of eight territories created during the territorial phase of American history. Today, Knox County is one of nine counties in the nation named for Gen. Henry Knox, the nation's first Secretary of War.
What makes Knoxville unique is that although it was pure luck, the city is one of the very few in the nation with a full-fledged 100-plus-acre nature park within two miles of its downtown.
The property originally belonged to Harry and Alice Yoe Ijams. Harry Ijams was an illustrator for the News Sentinel. In 1910, the couple purchased the property and then turned it into a nature preserve. That preserve is the foundation of the center today.
Ijams Nature Center is one of 81 such parks run by the city of Knoxville's Parks and Recreation Division. Those parks make up some 1,800 acres, offering every conceivable outdoor activity.
Few cities in the nation can boast of such a jewel as Ijams, which soon will have 300 acres in its nature preserve. Walking the center's trails and paths is restorative. Lovers of practically all types of wildlife, wild flowers and other priceless natural habitats are only minutes away from downtown Knoxville to the peace and quiet of the preserve.
Within Knoxville's city limits, greenways offer almost 30 miles of hiking and biking trails on 17 greenway segments. Knox County greenways offer another 15 miles of hiking, walking and biking trails in eight segments. One can bike from Knoxville to Maryville and walk from Knoxville to the communities of Powell and Halls.
This does not include the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, a 360-acre wildlife historic sanctuary situated on the edge of East Knox County. The sanctuary has more than 150 species of birds, including nesting bald eagles. In addition, the French Broad River, with its 50 species of fish, borders the park.
Also, the refuge has hiking trails that wind up the ridges and down to the waterfront. A boat launch allows easy access to the river.
A complete list of the city's and county's parks can be found at www.knoxcounty.org/parks/links.php.
Over the past few years, Knox County and Knoxville have experienced about a 60 percent increase in population, according to city and county records. People coming to the area need spaces where they can relax and relieve the stress of daily living.
Knoxville is fortunate to have Ijams Nature Center and the many parks and recreational area almost within a moment's notice, making it once again a natural crossroads for those seeking history or hiking.
© 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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