The park is located on the Chickamauga Reservoir. In addition to the area developed along the shoreline, the park contained thirteen islands in the Harrison Bay arm of Chickamauga Lake. The name of the park was taken from the name of the Bay. The Bay was named for the town of Harrison.
The original size of the park area was 1,432.1 acres. The State first leased this property from the Tennessee Valley Authority on June 16, 1938. TVA leased the property for fifteen years for one dollar per year and an option for a fifteen-year renewal when the original lease terminated. TVA restricted State use of the land to “recreational uses only” and retained the right to reclaim the area if it should be used for any other purpose. TVA also retained the right to reclaim parts of the leased property if it became necessary or desirable to use it for one or more of the Authority’s multiple purposes in land development. In 1940, TVA desired the return of a portion of the area. A new lease agreement for 1,235 acres was signed on July 1, 1940. The State received title to the Park in 1950 for one dollar. With the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the State developed the Park between 1938 and 1942. In 1942 the Park was officially opened for public use with facilities for picnicking, boating, swimming, fishing, boat docking and boat repairs.