Did you know that the only freshwater pearl-culturing farm in the United States, even the entire continent of North America, is located in Camden, Tennessee? Located on the Birdsong Creek off of the Tennessee River's Kentucky Lake is the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm. This is only fitting because the American pearl is Tennessee's Official State Gem. It's no wonder the area has become a tourist attraction over the years for its stunning pearls.
The beautiful pearls come from the indigenous Washboard mussel, which grows in the West Tennessee waters. Located at the halfway point between Memphis and Nashville, the Freshwater Pearl Museum at the farm should definitely earn a place on your bucket list. Stop by the Birdsong Resort for a tour of the grounds and the Pearl Jewelry Showroom. Purchase your own gemstones at the onsite gift shop. Prices for your own pearls will range anywhere between $35 to $1,500.
The farm was first founded by John R. Latendresse and his wife Chessie back in 1979. The couple created eight pilot farms in the area while attempting to master the Japanese technique of raising mussels to create cultured pearls. They got their first successful harvest in 1984 and the farm has been operational ever since. Bob Keast, who also owns the Birdsong Resort, the Marina and Camden Campground, is the current owner. The museum and community center onsite will take you behind the scenes of the history of the Tennessee River Pearls and provide general information on the industry of working with mussel shells.
There are 26 rental units on the property, ranging from private cottages, group lodges or manufactured homes. But you can also just bring your own RV and park it at the campgrounds for a quick overnight stop on your next road trip. You're also able to park your boat at the TN River dock. For an extra $20 per day, you're welcome to bring your pets along for the trip. This getaway spot will not only show you some of the most beautiful pearls you've ever seen (and allow you to buy some), but will also provide education for the whole family on this unique Tennessee industry.