The Marble City

photo of swimming dock at meads quarry at ijams nature center

If you spend time in Knoxville, you’ll pick up that ours is a city of eclectic tastes and culture, and its many nicknames over the years reflect that.

And if you watched our video about Ijams Nature Center, you’ll already know about the abandoned quarries. (If you haven’t watched it, go ahead. We’ll wait.)

Once the epicenter of a booming marble industry, the quarries decayed into garbage dumps, but now they’re local favorites for hikers and nature lovers. (And they’re no longer dumps.) Actually, they resemble overgrown temple ruins, which adds to their adventurous ambience.

Head to Ijams

If you’re interested in checking out the quarries, stop in at the Ijams visitors’ center, but don’t get distracted by their cool rescued animals or natural play structure area that will make you want to jump from log to log along with your kids. You’re on a mission. Focus. Pick up a trail map so you can visit the quarries where Knoxville’s famous pink marble was once carved out and sent around the world, to be made into fireplace mantels, statues and monuments. And kitschy little figurines, in all probability. The marble industry led to one of Knoxville’s many nicknames: Marble City. (Read more about it in this article in the Mercury Archives. You won’t be sorry!)

Once you get your map, hike to Ross Quarry–which is not full of water–or stop at Mead’s Quarry–which is full of water–to swim or rent a standup paddleboard or kayak in the warmer months.

winter view of water-filled Mead's Quarry

Bonus: There’s now a beer garden open at Mead’s Quarry on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Hike the Marble Trail

If your marble interest is piqued, strap on your touring shoes and get ready to view 10 prime examples of Tennessee pink marble architecture in a 35-mile loop that connects downtown with South Knoxville. It’s called, appropriately, the Tennessee Pink Marble Trail.

Visit this link for more information on the trail.

Celebrate Vestival

Join your fellow festival-lovers, history aficionados and marble fans for a day of crafts, music, food and preservation of South Knox history! Vestival is at the beautiful Candoro Marble Arts and Heritage Center in the spring. (Oh, and the Candoro Marble center happens to be in the Vestal community, hence the name: Vestival.)

Fun fact: Tennessee pink marble isn’t marble. It’s really limestone. I know! Shocking, right?

Looking for more eclectic and cool facts about Knoxville? Check out this list we found on


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