Description - An area rich in history, 26-acre Port Royal is the site of one of Tennessee's earliest communities and trading centers. It was an important site on the route to the West. An old Indian trail that led to the Ohio River had evolved into a major stagecoach route during the early 1800's and had crossed the Red River at Port Royal. This is the route taken by the Cherokee Indians during their removal in 1837-38 known as the Trail of Tears. Diary records of the removal mentioned Port Royal as an encampment site where the Cherokee stayed overnight or longer to resupply, grind corn, and rest.
- Port Royal Historic Area offers a museum and visitors center to share the rich history of this Red River area. Exhibits display artifacts, tools, and weapons from aboriginal peoples through frontier life and the Civil War period to present day tobacco farming. An exhibit also details the history of the Port Royal Covered Bridge.
The present bridge is a reconstruction of an earlier bridge. Not much is known of the first bridge except that its remains were washed away in the flood of 1866. The second bridge was constructed in 1903. While workmen were removing the false support timbers from this bridge, 200 feet collapsed, sending three workers and one bystander into the Red River. One young man died. The bridge was rebuilt the following year; it served the area until 1955, when a new concrete and steel bridge was constructed. The old covered bridge deteriorated until it crashed into the river in 1972.
The State of Tennessee received the deed to 22-acres of land at Port Royal in 1977 and rebuilt the present covered bridge. Port Royal was dedicated as a State historic Area in October, 1978. On June 10, 1998, heavy rains and tornado activity caused severe damage to the bridge. Much of the structure was destroyed leaving approximately half of the bridge in place.
The Sulfur Fork Bridge was erected in 1890 by the Converse Bridge Company, one of only two major bridge companies in Tennessee specializing in metal truss designs. The bridge, an example of the Pratt truss design, is significant due to its unusual composition. The bridge is open only to foot travel.
Recreation - Port Royal is a day-use park. Hiking, picnicking, canoeing, fishing, and photography are among the activities offered at Port Royal.
Climate - Tennessee has a temperate climate with short, mild winters. The average annual snowfall for the state is 12 inches. Spring comes in early March bringing flowering trees and shrubs, and warmer weather. Spring temperatures average between 45 and 70 degrees. Summer's full force arrives in the region by mid May, bringing warm weather and higher humidity. The mountains of eastern Tennessee are a great place to escape the hot summer temperatures as the higher elevation cools the air slightly. Cool fall temperatures bring crisp air and brilliant fall colors. Mid to late October is a good time to visit the region to experience the fall foliage.
From Nashville travel west on I-24. Take Exit 11 and travel east for 5 miles. Port Royal is located approximately 12 miles southeast of downtown Clarksville, Tennessee, off Hwy. 76.