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Hidden away in Benton County (take Exit 133 off I40, 'Just Down the RoadTM' from Memphis and Nashville) is one
Gem of a Tennessee AdventureTM.

Tennessee River MusselTennessee River Mussel - Photo by Jayne Everyone knows pearls come from Asia. Right? It's just one of those things that have been engrained in us for years. Remember the old movies that would show beautiful Asian pearl divers with the ability to hold their breath for unbelievable amounts of time? Always searching for that 'special gem' that everyone knew was hidden away just waiting for the person with the pure heart to come along and save the honor of the town or family? Remember those - back in the
day when movies not only entertained us but always had a moral lesson. The good guys always won and always wore white hats!

It comes from those times.

Pearls come from Japan, China and Asia. Everyone knows that's the way it is and has always been.

Well, what may have been true at one time isn't any longer. In fact there has been a Tennessee connection to the pearl industry for many years.

Located at the Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground you'll find the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm and the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum. Unique not only to Benton County and Tennessee but to North America! There have been freshwater pearls growing at the resort on Kentucky Lake since 1980. Plus, the 'Mother of Pearl' used as a 'seed' to cultivate these gems has come from the Tennessee River for many years.

The history of Tennessee's official gem is fascinating.
Cultured pearls are those that are 'grown' or implanted. Natural pearls are ones made when a foreign substance gets trapped inside a mussel. (As Bob Keast, the resort, farm & museum owner pointed out - a mussel is any creature that is soft and mushy and lives in a shell.) The shell of the Tennesse River mussel is what's known as 'Mother of Pearl'. The rough exterior of the shell hides the luster and beauty found when it is polished to reveal it's true nature. When something gets trapped inside the shell the mussel will begin to apply a coating (called Nacre) to the object in order to protect itself from this foreign substance. Depending on the type of mussel it can take 3 to 5 years for nature to produce this natural pearl.
Cultured pearls are grown the same way as natural pearls. It's the very beginning of the process that is a closely guarded secret around the Tennessee Freshwater Pearl Farm. 'Mother of Pearl' that has been sized, shaped and polished is surgically implanted into the shell of a living mussel and then the mussel is placed safely back in the mineral rich waters of Kentucky Lake / Tennessee River. Again, 3 to 5 years later the mussel has produced a beautiful, Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl. The strength and luster of these Tennessee River mussel shells provides the ability to produce different shape pearls. One of the many ways to enjoy the Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground
Bob Keast explains the past practice of 'Brailing' and Tennessee Pearl History - Photo by Jayne
Heart Shaped Pearl Necklace Made From Tennessee River Freshwater PearlsHeart Shaped Necklace Made From Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl - Photo by Jayne Necklaces using round pearls provide the wearer with jewelry that portrays an image of sophistication and elegance. By being able to produce up to five differing shapes, Bob is able to provide jewelry makers with the quality gems demanded by those looking for that special gift. There are also pieces available for those on a tighter budget. So, when Richard Burton bought Elizabeth Taylor that beautiful pearl necklace, not only did it contain the beautiful 'La Peregina' pearl but also Tennessee River Freshwater Pearls from the same place as the, less expensive, necklace that Jayne can now wear.
Jayne and I were able to spend a couple of days at the Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground around the middle of May and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Bob and Janice Keast (owners, caretakers and gracious hosts) and crew keep the campground and marina clean and a place for the entire family to enjoy. Visiting there you'll find everything from tent and RV camping sites to cabins and modular homes to rent that come complete with everything you need to enjoy your stay. That includes a kitchen stocked with all the utensils needed to prepare your own meals.
One of the many ways to enjoy the Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground
Phil King 'Catfish King' displays a days catch. Just one of the many ways to enjoy the Birdsong Resort, Marina & Campground - Photo by Jayne
If all there was to do was enjoy the beautiful Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground you could spend your entire vacation and have plenty of great memories for your entire family. There's a playground for the kids, swimming pool for everyone to enjoy and the great waters of the Tennessee River and beautiful Kentucky Lake. Swimming, fishing and walking the trails provide plenty of enjoyment and will leave you smiling with each new memory. Pontoon rental is available for excursions out on Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River. Looking to purchase your own boat or personal watercraft? Bob Campbell will be glad to help you pick out the perfect one for you and your family at prices that will keep you coming back when it's time to make your next purchase.
I'll be talking more about this great place for vacations, reunions, conferences and any gathering you have in mind in future articles. Keep visiting tennesseetourist.com and we'll keep you abreast of this and all the great things you'll find in the 3 States of Tennessee.
Today though I wanted you to know about one of the most unique Tennessee AdventuresTM you'll find anywhere in the state. The Tennessee Freshwater Pearl Farm and Tennessee Freshwater Pearl Museum are located at the Birdsong Resort Marina & Campground. Be sure to sign up for their 'Pearl of a Tour' for an unforgettable time. Bob Keast is a very knowledgeable and entertaining host/guide. Set aside enough time to spend on the 3 to 5 hour tour so you can learn about pearling, General Nathan Bedford Forrest and all the treasures you can find in Benton County, Camden, Tennessee. Named as an Ambassador for the State of Tennessee by then Gov. Don Sundquist and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, Alex Fischer, Bob will help you better understand the connection between the past, present and future of Tennessee's official gem.

This is a Must Do Tennessee AdventureTM! For general information give them a call @ 731-584-7880. For reservations call 800-225-7469 or visit them online @ www.birdsongresort.com.

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