Website: T.O. Fuller State Park
Location: 1500 W Mitchell Rd, Memphis, TN 38109
Date: March 2016
Price: $20/night + $5 reservation fee (25-50% various discounts apply)
We stayed at this park for one night because it was the mid-way point on our trip from Alabama to Arkansas. Additional factors in selecting this park were that it was in a fairly convenient location to I-55 (5 1/2 miles), a great price ($16/night with senior discount), and a state park with trails and plenty of green space. The state park is 1,138 acres and offers plenty of recreational activities including hiking, an Olympic-size pool, basketball court, tennis courts, ranger-led programs, picnic pavilions, a playground, and a cultural center displaying artifacts found on the property. (Note: most of these are not located in the campground but other parts of the park.)
This was the first state park east of the Mississippi River open to African Americans. Originally designated as the Shelby County Negro State Park in 1938, the name was later changed to honor Dr. T.O. Fuller who spent his life empowering and educating African Americans. Park facilities were originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and while excavating an area they unearthed a prehistoric village that is now interpreted in the Chucalissa Indian Village Museum and located onsite.
Park roads are paved and wide enough for any size RV to navigate. Sites are paved with gravel patios containing picnic tables, BBQ grill, and fire pits. There are a mix of pull-thrus and back-in sites of varying lengths (some of which claim to be 80 – 90 feet) which can be reserved on-line for up to 14 days. Many back-in sites were longer than the pull-thrus. About half of the sites are on a slight incline that we would consider unlevel.
Our site (#5) was a pull-thru claiming to be 61 feet but was slightly short for our 45’ RV and tow car. Luckily, we could pull forward enough into the road so we didn’t have to unhitch. If you are towing a trailer and don’t mind backing-in there are lots of options for long sites. Check their webpage for details about each site including approximate length, width, and grade which may or may not be accurate. There are also pictures of each site.
Sites have electric (30 and 50 amp) and water that are easy to reach. A dump station is located as you exit the park and is easy to navigate in and out of.
We were able to get 20-25 channels with our antenna. Our Verizon hotspot and 4G phone worked well.
There are not too many amenities in the campground itself except a playground, restroom/showers, and laundry with free ice. When I tried to go into the laundry room around 8:30 am it was locked so I can’t attest to how clean it was. In other parts of the park are the Chucalissa museum (which you can get free tickets to when checking in), a swimming pool, hiking trails, picnic areas and tennis/basketball courts.
The park is located on the south side of Memphis in a pretty run-down part of town which is very obvious if you approach from Route 61 (exit 7 off I-55) where you pass pawn shops, liquor stores, and dollar stores. The other way to approach the park is from Paul Lowery Road (exit 9 off I-55) where you drive through an industrial part of town which leaves you with a totally different impression. While there are gas stations, restaurants, and various shops within 3-4 miles of the park, we probably would not patronize them. The park is located just 5 miles from Graceland and 10 miles from Beale Street and the downtown action so from that perspective, the location is decent.
What we liked:
At $16/night (with senior discount) it was a great deal for a water/electric site for one night. It was convenient to the interstate but you did not get road noise. The park is large with lots of roads and trails for hiking or dog walking.
What we didn’t like:
The surrounding neighborhood made us feel a little uncomfortable as it was a pretty shady side of town. Let’s just say the southside of Memphis does not appear to be that desirable. While there is a 14-day limit, it appeared some of the people were spending extended periods of time in the park and there were some pretty run-down RV’s, one which was covered by a tarp. We did notice one tag hanging on a site that was issued for more than 14 days so it may be possible to camp for extended periods of time. There were hiking trails but we did not go on them because we honestly did not feel comfortable hiking there, especially toward dusk.
There were park rangers that lived on-site in residences nearby the campground that were armed. While we did feel a little uneasy in the campground there were no incidents that warranted that conclusion - just our own paranoia. The rangers were very nice at check in and did drive through the campground periodically.
If passing through this area again, we probably would not stay here because of the uncomfortable feelings we had.
Spirt’s two cents:
This park is fairly good for dogs with lots of room to walk them on roads through the park and miles of hiking trails.