State park boasts splendiferous waterfall, swimming hole

One way or another, Cummins Falls State Park leaves you breathless.

Located in southern Jackson County just northwest of Cookeville, this aquatic getaway ranks as Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall. The site also lays claim to being one of the 10 best swimming holes in the U.S., according to Travel and Leisure magazine.

It’s a mere 12 miles off of Interstate 40 (Exit 280), but be warned this is no place to wear flip-flops. You’ll have to cautiously make your way down the trail to the cool waters of Blackburn Fork State Scenic River and then hike along its streambed before you reach the gorgeous gorge.

Hikers and swimmers alike have a ball at Cummins Falls State Park, which boasts the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee and one of the Top-10 swimming holes in the U.S. It’s a vigorous descent by foot to the falls on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, which has served as a scenic spot and swimming hole for residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than a century.
(Photo by Ken Beck)

There you will spy the magnificent 75-foot-high falls, which will take your breath away. Later, as you scramble back up the trail, you may find yourself once more gasping for air. It will be worth the effort. Cummins Falls is a purely natural Tennessee treasure that you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste (although we don’t recommend you sip the water).

Park manager Ray Cutcher is a 43-year veteran of Tennessee State Parks, and he’s has been at Cummins Falls since the day after the state purchased it.

“The coolest feature is the waterfall and the plunge-pool below,” said Cutcher. “The waterfall creates the magnificent swimming hole below. The ledges beneath to climb up on make it such a unique experience that people keep on coming here. In addition it’s a wild and rugged area so you have to take a pretty good hike.”

Cummins Falls was dedicated as the Tennessee’s 54th state park May 22, 2012.

Steep Soggy Slog

The ranger noted that visitors should expect “a rugged, strenuous hike that will be rocky and slippery. Sometimes a walking stick will help while crossing the stream. You will walk through water so wear footwear, like an old pair of tennis shoes.”

He also advises that you bring water or sports drinks (no alcohol allowed) and cautions this may not be the best place to tote babies or small children.

“On a typical weekend day we can draw 5,000 to 9,000. We have become such a popular place that in the very near future we’re going to have to limit the number of people in a day,” said Cutcher, adding that likely would occur in 2020.

As evidence of its growing popularity, the park saw its attendance double this past March from March a year ago.

Hours for the day-use park are 8 a.m.-6 p.m., but the gorge area closes at 5 p.m., so those at the waterfall must start walking out at 5 p.m. in order to depart the park by 6. Visitors will find the parking lot, restrooms, trailheads and designated picnic area above the falls. An overlook of the waterfall is nearby and can be reached by foot on a trail about a half-mile long. ADA access is available upon request.

Cummins Falls State Park manager Ray Cutcher has been at the park since the day after the state purchased it in February 2012. He alerts visitors that the trail to the waterfall presents “a rugged, strenuous hike that will be rocky and slippery.” Some 5,000 to 9,000 people visit the park on a typical weekend day.
(Photo by Ken Beck)

The route descending directly to the falls is about one mile along uneven terrain with tree roots and other hazards, and part of the hike includes walking upstream through the river, thus it can be slippery.

On a serious note, there have been five drowning here since the park opened. The plunge pool, a natural area with no manmade features, is 15 feet deep in places. There are no lifeguards, thus swimming is at your own risk.

It is also important to pay attention to the weather as sudden heavy rainfalls can cause flash floods. Such an event occurred in July 2017, causing two drownings and stranding 48 people for part of a day. Heavy rains also may require the pool and the hike to the 200-foot-deep gorge to be closed for two or three days.

Longtime Local Leisure Spot 

The site has been no secret to folks here in Jackson County and in nearby Putnam County as locals and their ancestors have enjoyed hitting the ole swimming hole for more than a century.

“The Cummins family had owned the area since 1825,” said Ranger Cutcher. “For over 100 years they operated a mill on this site. The Cummins family didn’t try to restrict use to the area so it kind of became a public recreation area.”

The trek to the base of Cummins Falls may be a little too demanding for some. But views from above are sure to dazzle and delight, too. Nine-month-old Emily Shinall and her mom, Christina, enjoy the pleasant vistas from a safe vantage.

 

“People came here with grain, and while waiting for the grain to be ground would make it a little vacation and stay a few days and swim and fish,” Cutcher went on. “The mill washed away in 1928, but people still continued to come because it was such a local treasure. People never were kept out of this area.”

As for what’s new this summer Cutcher said, “We’ve started doing some different evening programs, like night hikes and campfire programs, and we also have added a few photography and painting programs. These are things that people normally don’t have access to and they are fee-based.”

The park continues to offer Junior Ranger Camp with four-day sessions for children ages 6 to 12, running June 24-27 and July 15-18. Cost is $25.

Preservation Collaboration

Since 2006, local outdoors enthusiasts and the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation had been working to protect Cummins Falls. Through combined efforts, the property was rescued from a proposed housing development at a public auction in 2010.

A stroll along the base of Cummins Falls is exhilarating, but footing can be treacherous.

It was accomplished via kindred spirits as the foundation recruited conservation buyers in Dr. Glenn Hall, Mary Lynn Dobson and Robert D. McCaleb, who temporarily secured the land. Through fundraising efforts the foundation then was able to purchase the land in 2012.

Cutcher said the park plans to purchase another small piece of property where the mill once stood. “We don’t have ownership but our friends group is holding it. And we got a Recreation Trails Program grant to build an observation deck at the main overlook. We hope to have it built later this year.”

While too late for this year, every February the Friends of Cummins Falls State Park hold an annual Cummins Falls Marathon with four certified routes: a marathon, a half marathon, a 5K and a 10K.

The last event drew approximately 300 runners with about 70 participating in the marathon. The race route is steep so, just like seeing the magnificent waterfall, the experience likely would prove breathtaking.

 


Cummins Falls State Park

Hours for the 282-acre day-use park are 8am-6pm.

The gorge area closes at 5pm. People at the bottom of the waterfall must start walking out at 5pm. in order to get back to the parking lot and be out of the park by 6 p.m.

Directions: From Interstate 40 Exit 280, go north 7.7 miles on Highway 56; turn right on Highway 290 and go about 1 mile and turn left on Cummins Mill Road. Go three miles and turn left on Blackburn Fork Road. Drive about 300 yards and turn left.

Park address: 390 Cummins Falls Lane, Cookeville, TN.

931-520-6691, (931) 261-3471.

tnstateparks.com/parks/about/cummins-falls

News Release from Tennessee Tech University, April 5, 2019:

Link: https://www.tntech.edu/news/releases/18-19/day-on-the-hill.php

State leaders learned more about Tennessee Tech University’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge, an initiative that will accelerate rural innovation and collaboration across the state, at the recent Tennessee Tech Day on the Hill at the state capitol.

Tennessee Tech representatives carried the message of the grand challenge, which is an effort with ambitious but achievable goals that harnesses the capabilities of a campus while inspiring imaginations.

Rural Reimagined focuses on developing and supporting success throughout rural areas in Tennessee that can be replicated to help rural areas throughout the country and the world.

Tech President Phil Oldham shared his excitement for the work that was led by faculty leaders and more than 50 other work group members to shape the priorities and actions of the university. Tech’s director of its Center for Rural Innovation Michael Aikens says the university will focus on harnessing all academic disciplines to transform rural living.

“Rural Reimagined is a grassroots effort, and is squarely in line with Gov. Lee’s visions for rural transformation,” said Aikens. “It is important the legislature know about our goals for reimagining the rural landscape, so that they can assist with support, awareness and action in the communities they represent.

“Having the legislature on board with Rural Reimagined sends a message to their constituents and communities that they are committed to helping and improving their rural areas,” Aikens said. “Support from the legislature will legitimize both Tennessee Tech’s efforts and Gov. Lee’s call for action in rural areas.

Besides legislators, Tech officials were also able to interact with other public figures, medical doctors and student interns, helping energize the Tech students who are currently interning on the hill.

“We were able to have discussions with our student interns about development of a student advisory board for the grand challenge,” said Aikens. “It is our hope to establish a diverse set of student voices on this board. We think it is critical that political science majors have a seat at the table.”

Tech has already been assisting rural areas with career readiness certification; a remote area medical clinic; a small business development center; a cybersecurity education, research and outreach center; a STEM mobile unit for K-12 student success; water quality research to monitor and protect natural resources; and, archives of rural history.

For more information on Rural Reimagined, go to www.tntech.edu/grand-challenge.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2019/4/2/local-farms-creating-unforgettable-memories-this-easter.html

NASHVILLE – With spring in the air and warmer weather within reach, farms across the state are offering exciting activities for the upcoming holiday. From riding ponies to getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, you can spend a whole day of family fun making memories that last a lifetime.

According to mental health professionals, holidays can be a time of stress. The thought of cooking and planning activities can be overwhelming.

However, local farmers are stepping up to the plate this Easter holiday. Tennessee farms are providing the ultimate stress relief that is sure to entertain the whole family.

“At our farm, there are no mad dashes — just a day filled with nonstop Easter egg hunts, farm-wide scavenger hunts for older kids, and, of course, pictures with the Easter bunny!” said Jimmy McCulley of Amazin’ Acres in White County. “We encourage you to bring your camera to capture the amazing memories with farm animals, the bee line zipline, the jumping pillow, milking a cow or goat, racing ducks, and more!”

One farmer has been planning events for years. “At Falcon Ridge, our annual Easter egg hunt provides families the opportunity to enjoy a day on the farm,” Bart Gilmer of Hardeman County said. “Our visitors can hunt eggs, get a picture with the Easter Bunny, visit the Petting Zoo, and much more without the work of planning an event.”

Don’t have kids and on the hunt for an adult Easter adventure? Look no further. “It’s time to find your inner child and get hopping to Lucky Ladd Farms for Nashville’s famous Bunny and Brew – Adult Egg Hunt,” said Amy Ladd of Lucky Ladd Farms of Rutherford County. “We will have live entertainment, fun lawn games, pre-hunt lite bites, and all-you-can-drink brew and coke products.”

Don’t get stressed — hop on over to the farm this Easter and let the farmers do the planning. The sounds of laugher and joy of all ages will fill the air making for life-long memories.

Go to www.PickTNProducts.org or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farm near you. Follow “PickTNProducts” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipes, products, and activities.

Stiffer fines, more jail time soon likely for illegally flying remote controlled aircraft over ‘critical infrastructure’

A measure that will significantly increase the penalty for flying drones in off-limits airspace has passed both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Senate Bill 306 cleared the House of Representatives last week on a 95-1 vote. It passed the Senate 30-0 on Feb. 25. The bill now awaits a signature from Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

The legislation is sponsored by a pair of East Tennessee Republicans — Sen. Jon Lundberg of Bristol and Rep. Bud Hulsey of Kingsport.

Hulsey said SB306 “enhances the penalty for flying a drone over critical infrastructure from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony.”

A Class C misdemeanor carries a possible 30-day sentence and a $50 fine. Conviction of a Class E felony may result in a 1-6 year prison sentence and up to a $3,0000 fine.

Under current Tennessee law, a person who “knowingly uses an unmanned aircraft within 250 feet of the perimeter of any critical infrastructure facility for the purpose of conducting surveillance of, gathering evidence or collecting information about, or photographically or electronically recording critical infrastructure data” is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, a legislative background analysis of the proposed measure reported.

According to Tennessee’s Administrative Office of the Courts, no one has ever actually been convicted of flying a drone in restricted airspace under the state’s existing law.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Mike Bell remarked during a February committee hearing that, because the Class C misdemeanor penalty is relatively insubstantial, it has “not been worth it to the sheriffs or the DAs to prosecute.”

Sen. Lundberg said he decided to propose a punishment increase after hearing complaints about unauthorized drones “from a number of industries across the state.”

“The reason for the change is, candididly, there is a proliferation obviously of drones.” Lundberg told the Judiciary Committee.

“With that proliferation, we need more of an impediment for folks who are flying these over critical infrastructure,” he said. “A Class C misdemeanor does not provide that.”

Press Release from the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau, March 21, 2019:

Link: https://visitcookevilletn.com/

DAYTONA BEACH – “One Meeting, Twelve States, Infinite Ideas,” is the sentiment of the 2019 Southeast Tourism Society’s CONNECTIONS Conference, taking place this week in Daytona Beach, Fl. Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau team members Zach Ledbetter and Molly Brown attended, along with nearly 350 travel industry representatives from across the Southeast.

STS, a leader among travel organizations for more than 35 years, creates an unparalleled and powerful marketing alliance of regional tourism promotion. The membership organization is comprised of twelve states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Tennessee has the third highest participation in STS, and most recently one of the largest increases in membership.

STS focuses on four pillars: Education, Advocacy, Recognition and Networking. The CONNECTIONS conference mirrors those pillars with educational sessions featuring topics such as Cutting-Edge Research, Social (Media) Listening, Data Driven Marketing, Meeting Planner Trends, Connecting Research and Advocacy, Measuring Marketing Effectiveness, Airbnb/Short-term Rental Effects, Lifestyle Marketing/Economic Development Organizational Partnerships, and Detecting Southeast Travel & Tourism Economic Drivers.

Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau; Wendy Thomas, director of marketing & communications, Southeast Tourism Society; Heather Blanchard, director of member development, Southeast Tourism Society; Melanie Beauchamp, director of outreach, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; and Molly Brown, director of public relations & marketing, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau.

In addition to educational sessions and networking opportunities, STS CONNECTIONS featured an industry trade show, an awards ceremony and STS Marketing College™ Graduation. During the opening luncheon on Tuesday, 62 graduates received official certification as Travel Marketing Professionals, an accolade that requires three years of professional development course work, specifically in the tourism marketing curriculum. The TMP designation was attained by Brown in 2017. Ledbetter is currently enrolled in the TMP program and is set to complete with anticipated graduation in Spring 2020.

Exclusive CONNECTIONS seminars were offered to attendees with TMP certifications. These sessions offered elevated content such as Emerging Tech Travel Trends and Marketing to International Travelers. Brown attended each of these classes.

In continuing the growth of partnered tourism promotion, STS President & CEO Monica Smith was joined on stage during the conference by Travel South USA President & CEO Liz Bittner to share plans for the upcoming collaboration in hosting the Travel South Showcase, the premier marketplace event in the South where more than 500 tourism professionals gather for 3 days of intensive meetings with a goal of delivering more visitors, spending more time and more money in the South.

This partnership will create an even stronger alliance of Southern tourism promotion, connecting Southern destinations, attractions, entertainment and hotels with tour operators and journalists from around the world who influence more visitor spending in the region while also building a stronger network among those tourism professionals.

“This is our first time having the opportunity to attend the STS CONNECTIONS Conference and can’t say enough about the takeaways already attained,” said Ledbetter. “The caliber of the travel industry professionals here as well as the speakers and content of the conference, the structure of sessions, and the opportunities for us to elevate the marketing assets of our community are outstanding.”

“We look forward to working more with the STS organization as well as Travel South USA in inspiring travel to Cookeville-Putnam County.”

About Southeast Tourism Society: Mission: Dedicated to improving the economic vitality of the Southeast by uniting all segments of the Travel and Tourism Industry; promoting tourism within our member states, fostering cooperation, sharing resources and providing continuing education. Vision: To create, maintain and promote a cohesive membership organization responsive to the development of travel and tourism professionals and organizations within the southeast United States of America. For more information about Southeast Tourism Society, go to southeasttourism.org.

About the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau: The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization (DMO) for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc. Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents with a savings of $358.47 per household. Explore more at VisitCookevilleTN.com. For more information about the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, info@visitcookevilletn.com

Press Release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, March 18, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/3/18/tennessee-anglers-shine-in-bassmaster-classic-with-top-two-places–two-additional-in-top-seven.html

Tennessee Anglers Shine in Bassmaster Classic with Top Two Places; Two Additional in Top Seven

Tennessee anglers captured the top two places and posted two additional spots among the top seven in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. The impressive performances capped off the three-day event in Knoxville.

Ott DeFoe put the finishing touches on a storybook performance in his hometown. The Knoxville angler was the overall champion with a total of 49 pounds, 3 ounces. He earned the title after a sixth place finish a year ago.

Harrison resident Jacob Wheeler came in second place in his third B.A.S.S. tournament. He had a three-day total of 45-5. Brandon Lester claimed sixth place. The Fayetteville native had a three-day total of 40-3. Right behind in seventh position was Spring City’s Wesley Strader with 39-8 to give all the Volunteer State’s anglers competing top 10 finishes.

The Classic showcased Tennessee as one of the nation’s top fishing destinations. A record attendance of more than 153,800 were in attendance at the tournament venues, including the daily afternoon weigh-ins at Thompson Boling Arena, the Classic Outdoors Expo at the Knoxville Convention Center and World’s Fair Exhibition Hall, and the morning takeoffs at Volunteers Landing. The Saturday takeoff drew 6,500 while Friday’s was 5,500, both new records.

Fishing is big business in Tennessee. With 1.8 million anglers and an economic impact of more than $1.1 billion in Tennessee, fishing drives tourism throughout the state and supports close to 10,000 jobs. The Classic alone had an economic impact of more than $25 million in and around Knoxville

Press Release from TennGreen, March 15, 2019:

Link: https://www.tenngreen.org/single-post/2019/03/18/Fall-Creek-Falls-Expansion

The Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation (TennGreen) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are thrilled to announce the protection of two significant inholdings in Fall Creek Falls State Park, located in Van Buren County.

These two properties, which total around 27 acres on the northwest side of Fall Creek Falls State Park, have been areas of interest to TDEC for decades. Prior to TennGreen’s acquisition, both tracts were privately-owned and the landowners planned to sell them at auction. However, in order to ensure that these lands would be available to the public, the landowners agreed to work with TennGreen directly.

In early 2019, TennGreen purchased both properties on behalf of TDEC. Acquisition of these forested lands, located near the meeting point of Camps Gulf Branch and Cane Creek, will protect wildlife corridors and enable parks staff to more effectively maintain the park’s boundaries and highly-used amenities.

“Fall Creek Falls is already a natural gem,” said David Salyers, Commissioner for TDEC. “We are grateful to TennGreen and the landowners for making this wonderful expansion possible. This is an excellent example of what partnerships like this can achieve, and I’m excited that we are adding this beautiful forested area to a park that is already such a special place.”

We are pleased to see this important step,” said Jacob Young, Park Manager at Fall Creek Falls. “We are honored to be stewards of this property and we are glad this expansion can be enjoyed as part of Fall Creek Falls State Park for generations to come.”

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s most visited state parks. Named after the highest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River—the 256-foot Fall Creek Falls—the park is home to a variety of activities, with more than 56 miles of trails, caves, overlooks, and waterfalls.

This expansion of Fall Creek Falls State Park represents one of TennGreen’s many successful partnerships with the State of Tennessee to protect lands in the Scotts Gulf region. Since 1998, TennGreen has assisted in the conservation of more than 8,000 acres—including Buzzards Roost/Millikan’s Overlook and the Cane Creek Crusher Hole in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Welch’s Point, and Virgin Falls State Natural Area.

“This acquisition will protect water quality and scenic views in the Camps Gulf area,” said Steve Law, Executive Director of TennGreen. “It will also protect habitat in this important area of Fall Creek Falls State Park where both state- and federally-listed endangered species have been documented. TennGreen is grateful for its partnership with the State of Tennessee to protect the beauty and natural assets of the Upper Cumberland for current inhabitants and future generations to enjoy.”

TennGreen is grateful to Dr. Stephen Stedman, Gloria & Ted LaRoche, Ann & Clark Tidwell, Louise Gorenflo & Dennis Gregg, and Nita Whitfield for their generous contributions to this project.

Press Release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, March 14, 2019:

Link: https://www.dvidshub.net/news/314235/recreation-facilities-receive-damage-assessments-waters-recede

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 14, 2019) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is assessing damage to recreation facilities at its 10 lakes in the Cumberland River Basin as high waters begin to recede.

Officials are working as conditions allow to determine impacts to public lands, including roadways, recreation areas, facilities and campsites to make sure they are safe ahead of the 2019 recreation season.

“What we would like to convey to the public is that the majority of recreation areas and campgrounds across the district will open on schedule,” said Freddie Bell, Nashville District Natural Resources Management Section chief.

He said there are some impacts to recreation areas and campgrounds at Dale Hollow Lake, Center Hill Lake and Lake Cumberland, where some delays and partial closures may occur for repairs.

“Be mindful that we are not able to fully assess the damage in some locations until waters recede further,” Bell added. “We are doing everything possible to limit delays and avoid reservation cancellations at our campgrounds and are looking at alternatives for visitors.”

Center Hill Lake
Corps officials at Center Hill Lake in Tennessee are assessing conditions as the lake recedes at its recreation areas, to include Long Branch Campground, Floating Mill Campground and Ragland Bottom Campground. Long Branch and Ragland Bottom Campgrounds are on schedule to open in April, though some campsite-specific closures may occur due to erosion around facilities.

Initial assessments at Floating Mill Campground reveal that the Corps may need to delay opening until at least June. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/centerhilllake.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Center Hill Lake include Edgar Evins State Park, Rock Island State Park, Center Hill Lake marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Dale Hollow Lake
At Dale Hollow Lake, located in Tennessee and Kentucky, the staff is assessing conditions as the lake recedes at its recreation areas, to include Lillydale Campground and Obey River Campground. Initial assessments at Lillydale and Obey River Campgrounds project a delay in opening of up to 30 days. Willow Grove Campground and Dale Hollow Dam Campground should open as scheduled. A biking trail and fishing piers near Dale Hollow Dam Campground are still under water and have to be assessed when the water recedes. Lake-wide primitive camping locations are normally open all year, but are closed due to high water, most likely into April. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dalehollowlake.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Dale Hollow Lake include Dale Hollow Lake State Park, Dale Hollow Lake marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Lake Cumberland
At Lake Cumberland in Kentucky where the lake reached a record pool elevation of 756.52 feet on Feb. 26, Nashville District water managers continue to draw down the lake as Corps officials assess damage to recreation areas, to include campsites and boat ramps. Fall Creek Campground is opening on April 12. Cumberland Point Campground is also opening on April 12, 35 days earlier than originally scheduled to offset the unavailability of campsites at other areas on the lake.

Impacts at Fishing Creek Campground remain tentative as the lake continues to recede; however, we expect a delayed opening until mid-July. Below the dam at Kendall Campground, 11 campsites along the river are unavailable at this time due to erosion, but the campground will open on schedule. Corps officials are assessing conditions at Waitsboro Campground as the lake recedes, and the preliminary assessment has precipitated a partial seasonal closure most likely lasting into August. Officials will post updates on the condition and availability of recreational facilities to the lake’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lakecumberland.

Alternatives for visitors affected by reservation cancellations at Lake Cumberland include Lake Cumberland State Park, Lake Cumberland marinas, campgrounds at other Nashville District lakes, and other Kentucky and Tennessee state parks.

Lake staffs are communicating with recreation.gov officials to notify guests with existing reservations of any campground and shelter cancellations. Visitors who are concerned about their campsite or shelter reservations should call the Recreation.gov direct line at 1-877-444-6777. They may also visit www.recreation.gov for information about their existing camping or shelter reservation or to check the availability of facilities. Customers with existing reservations for closed sites due to flooding will be given the option for a full refund or moving their reservation to another available site with no service charge.

News and information regarding flooding impacts to Nashville District recreation areas will be made available on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.

High water levels and a raging Caney Fork River at the Center Lake headwaters have proved too extreme even for world class whitewater kayakers.

The USA Freestyle Kayak Trials scheduled for Rock Island this weekend have been cancelled “Due to flooding in the river gorge,” according to Team USA’s Facebook page.

The event will instead be held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Swain County North Carolina. It will be used to select the US Freestyle Kayak Team to represent to compete this summer at the ICF Freestyle World Championships in Spain.

A certification clinic for ICF Freestyle Kayak judging is still scheduled for next week at Rock Island as of this posting.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 12, 2019:

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has acquired nearly 400 acres as an addition to the 440-acre Piney Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County.

“This significant acquisition, which contains stunning views of the ridge and valley of the Cumberland Plateau, provides additional protection for Upper Piney Falls,” said Roger McCoy, director of TDEC’s Division of Natural Areas. “We are grateful to our nonprofit partners for their support in making even more of Tennessee’s incredible viewshed accessible to visitors and rural residents alike.”

A parking area and hiking trails are currently provided at Piney Falls. The acquisition adds acreage that could lead to future trail development.

The acquisition transfers the land to the state from The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee (TNC). The Tucker Foundation assisted with the purchase through a grant to TNC, and the nonprofit Open Space Institute (OSI) provided funds toward the acquisition.

This latest partnership with OSI and TNC provides another example of the generosity of non-government partners helping accomplish TDEC’s mission.

“Piney Falls State Natural Area is more than a gorgeous place to experience the outdoors; it is also considered a wildlife habitat priority in Tennessee’s State Wildlife Action Plan,” said Terry Cook, TNC’s Tennessee state director. “When TDEC asked for our help to save additional land there, we jumped at the chance. This project is an excellent example of how private funding sources can leverage state funding to achieve conservation results for people and nature.”

“The conservation of Piney Falls demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “We commend The Nature Conservancy for acting quickly to purchase the property so it could be conserved for future generations.”

Piney Falls is a pristine forest land featuring creeks, waterfalls and old growth forest. It is also recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. Piney Falls consists of deep gorges carved from the Little Piney River and Soak Creek Designated State Scenic River.

Designated in 1973, Piney Falls is one of Tennessee’s 85 State Natural Areas. For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/na-natural-areas.html.