What’s in a Name?
When is a “cedar” not a “cedar”? When we checked in at the campground office at Cedars of Lebanon campground, I asked our host, “What is the one thing we should make sure we see while we are in the park?”
Her response was, “Well there is a lot to see and do, but I am told there is not one cedar in the park.” She left it there with no further explanation. I left, puzzled—how could we be in Cedars of Lebanon and there be no “cedars” in the park?
The answer: it is a trick question, perhaps mildly amusing to a “hair-splitting” compulsive botanist. Precisely, the scientific family name Cedrus applies to “true cedar” trees native to the Middle East and Asia, including the Lebanon cedar (Cedar libani). The common name for the trees in the park is “Eastern Red Cedar,” but they actually belong to a different botanical family (Cupressaceae) with the scientific name Juniperus virginiana, and might be more precisely called “junipers” rather than “cedars.” Still, throughout North America, the predominant species of trees in the park are commonly and properly referred to as “cedars.”
The unique limestone rock ecosystem of the park promotes the growth of cedar glades. Cedars sprout and grow in the thin soil. This ecosystem also supports nineteen other rare and endangered species of plants that grow profusely here and nowhere else in the world.
Early settlers to the area named the area Lebanon based on Biblical references to the cedar. In the 1800s, the dense cedar forests were all but destroyed by logging in response to the demand for the aromatic cedar wood. During the depression years, the Works Project Administration (WPA) converted the area to an agricultural demonstration project and began to restore the cedar forests. The Cedars of Lebanon State Forest was established in 1935. A portion of the area was designated as a state park in 1955.
The park is a mixture of natural, primitive environments and man-made facilities that appeal to many interests.
There are more than eight miles of hiking trails that wind through cedar forests and past geological features and micro ecosystems with unique flowers. The park is home to frequently seen fox, deer, squirrel, rabbits and turkey, as well as numerous bird species. The healthy natural environment also supports an assortment of native amphibians, reptiles and insects.
The half-mile Cedar Glades Trail offers an excellent introduction to the geology and biology of the area. It is well marked and interpreted with illustrated signs describing the geological history, ecology, and plants and animals of the area. The trail; a level, easy walk; begins at the parking lot adjacent to the park’s main registration building.
After millennia of rain seeping into the ground, parts of the native limestone dissolve and are carried away, leaving cavities—or caves—under ground. Occasionally, the ground above collapses into these cavities leaving sink holes, or “sinks,” visible on the surface. Examples of sinks can be seen along the Limestone Sinks Trail. Unfortunately, this trail is not as well marked or interpreted as the Cedar Glades Trail. There are no signs describing the formation of the several very different “sinks” that are encountered along the trail. The most dramatic sink hole in the park can be found along the five-mile long Hidden Springs Trail.
A five-minute walk along another short trail behind the nature center takes you to the entrance Jackson Cave. The cave is a protected bat environment and closed to exploration.
The state park offers a broad range of facilities and activities, from camping to horseback riding to venues for small and large group outings; even formal weddings. The Olympic-sized pool is popular in the summer. It offers depths from 12 feet with a diving board to a wading pool two feet deep. There is a riding stable that provides horses and a two-mile guided ride. Owners may bring their own horses to explore the 18 miles of dedicated trails within the park.
There are more than 80 campsites spread across three camping loops. Loop 1 offers pull-through sites with full hookups with 50 and 30-amp electrical service suitable for larger motor homes and travel trailers. Loops 2 and 3 are back-in sites that provide 30-amp service and water for trailers and tents. Loop 3 is limited to tents and pop-up tent trailers. Each camping area has a large bathhouse conveniently located in the the loop. The website says that camping rates range for “$0 to $20.” Sites may be reserved up to a year in advance.
Sites are level, gravel pads with room for a camper and a vehicle. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Firewood is available at the campground check-in office. The nearby bathhouse was spacious, well lighted, and clean.
In addition to campsites, there are cabins for rent and a lodge for groups.
Many activities are available including a nature center, butterfly garden, many picnic shelters and pavilions for larger group gatherings. The Cedar Forest Lodge and the grounds surrounding it are ideal for weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.
There is a well-equipped playground and a schedule of programs for both adults and children. There are basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, and a nine-hole Frisbee golf course.
Cedars of Lebanon State Park caters to a broad range of interests, from a day at the pool, to a week of exploring the unique natural ecosystem. Campers can sit back and relax in roomy, shaded camp sites, or gather at pavilions for group events. Those with an interest local history or geology and biology will find valuable resources to broaden their experiences. Birders will especially enjoy the variety species to add to their life lists.
The park is located ten miles from historic Lebanon, Tennessee and the Wilson County Agricultural Center—home of the Wilson County Fair. This August fair is one of the largest fairs in the state. It is also the home of Fiddlers Grove Historic Village that is open April through October.
In any case, Cedars of Lebanon State Park is an ideal destination for a relaxing—or adventurous—weekend or week-long getaway.
328 Cedar Forest Rd
Lebanon, Tennessee, 37090
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About: Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Tennessee offers a full range of camping and park activities and features. From hiking to horseback riding and from family picnics to formal weddings, there is something for everyone. There is even the mystery of how a park named the Cedars of Lebanon could have no cedars in it. There is a solution. Read Where is a “Cedar” not a “Cedar”—In Cedars of Lebanon State Park.
TOC: Where is a “Cedar” not a “Cedar”—In Cedars of Lebanon State Park answers a puzzling question and describe the many activities and adventures available the puzzling state park.