Clarksville, Tennessee is first and foremost a river city. The Cumberland and Red Rivers merge in the heart of the town, very near where the city was founded in 1784, 12 years before Tennessee became the nation’s 16th state. Today, a fully-developed Cumberland RiverWalk adorns this significant juncture, and an enclosed RiverCenter illustrates Clarksville’s history from that vantage beginning with pre-settlement days through modern times.
The Customs House Museum & Cultural Center encompasses 50,000 square feet that includes an 1898, Gothic building, as well as a 1996 expansion. The Center features rotating and permanent exhibit of general history and art, along with an explorer’s gallery and massive model train exhibit. A large “Becoming Clarksville” exhibit shows and tells fascinating stories about the history of Fort Campbell, Dunbar Cave, Clarksville’s river development, along with some of the city’s legendary people who rose to the pinnacle of their respective fields like Olympic Gold Medalist Wilma Rudolph, the first woman from the United States to receive three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
Clarksville’s rich military history spans from the Revolutionary War era through modern conflicts. The remarkably well-preserved Fort Defiance Park & Interpretive Center, just across the river from downtown, is located on a 200-foot bluff over the Cumberland. Constructed as a defensive fort in 1861 by Confederate troops to control the river approach to Clarksville, the Center hosts multiple reenactment and educational events throughout the year that bring history alive for the young and old alike. Annual Events include a surrender reenactment in February, Sevier Days in September and Christmas in Occupied Clarksville in December.
Two blocks from the Customs House on Franklin Street, the crux for downtown retail and restaurants, students can enjoy live professional productions in the 1947 art deco Roxy Regional Theatre. Upcoming musical and drama selections include Miracle on 34th Street, Charlotte’s Web, All Night Strut (music of the 1930’s and 40’s), To Kill a Mockingbird, and Marie Antionette.
A rejuvenating 30-minute drive into rural Montgomery County transports you to a mid-19th Century settlement at Historic Collinsville. This pioneer museum on 40 rolling acres features 18 authentically restored log houses and outbuildings dating from 1830–1870. Each structure has been restored to its original condition and is authentically furnished. Annual events with docents, hayrides, music, and other activities include Spring Homecoming in May, A Fall Pilgrimage in October, and Christmas at Collinsville in December.
Dunbar Cave, at over eight miles in length, is part of a 144-acre state park, the cave’s archaeological markings and excavations revealed that the cave has been used for thousands of years. The entrance to Dunbar Cave is 58 degrees year-round which was a popular attraction during the summer months and by the 1930s, the cave became a hotspot for local bands and other entertainment. In 1948, country music legend Roy Acuff bought the property and staged his Saturday Night Radio Dance Broadcast from the site. Events and programs are held frequently, including guided cave tours, history days, wildlife and wildflower hikes tours, butterfly and hummingbird festival, and more.