Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Sept. 5, 2019:

Registration through September 8 for September 14-19 event

NASHVILLE – More than 275 cyclists from nearly 30 states will gather at Natchez Trace State Park and Montgomery Bell State Park on Sept. 14-19 for Tennessee State Parks’ annual Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee.

The 30th annual ride will guide riders through some of Tennessee’s most scenic and charming communities, including Huntingdon, Lexington, Parsons, Charlotte, and Kingston Springs.

Each day will feature out-and-back rides returning to stay overnight at Natchez Trace State Park and Montgomery Bell State Park. Riders will pass key attractions along the way including Mousetail Landing State Park, the historic Charlotte Courthouse Square, and Brown Creek Lake.

In addition to the ride, interpretive programs are held nightly that allow riders to explore the parks and learn skills from park rangers. Programs this year include a historic van tour of Montgomery Bell State Park, an introduction to primitive weapons, a birds of prey program, and more.

The ride is non-competitive and suitable for a range of skill levels. Riders can register for a one-, two-, three- or six-day ride through Sept. 8. Registration begins at $99 for a one-day trip and $599 for the full 331-mile trip. The fee includes a fully supported route, lodging at two state park campsites, hot showers, meals (breakfast and supper), live entertainment and interpretive programming as well as an event T-shirt. Cabin and RV campground lodging is also available for an additional fee.

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is sponsored by Tennessee State Parks and benefits The Friends of Montgomery Bell State Park, The Friends of Natchez Trace State Park, The Friends of the Cumberland Trail, and the Tennessee State Park Rangers Association.

More information on the ride, including a map of the route and registration instructions, can be found at www.thebrat.org.

State officials say they’ve addressed concerns and issues that may have played a role in a child’s drowning this spring, and they’re ready to reopen the scenic waterfall swimming hole along the Blackburn Fork River in Jackson County.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a press release Tuesday outlining changes to safety policies at Cummins Falls State Park, where earlier this year a 2-year-old boy was swept away to his death during a June 8 flash flood.

TDEC reports that a weather scanning station has been established and will enable rangers to “monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.”

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

River monitoring gauges are also now in place upstream from the falls. They will measure water levels and send electronic communication alerts to park officials and regional rescue teams in the event that waters rapidly rise, according to TDEC’s Aug. 13 news release, which is posted below:

TDEC Implements Comprehensive Safety Improvement Strategy at Cummins Falls State Park

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has implemented a comprehensive safety improvement strategy at Cummins Falls State Park and will reopen the falls and gorge on Aug. 14 if weather conditions permit.

The additions will include new policies for minors, additional signage, additional safety-related information on the Cummins Falls State Park webpage, a safety education video for public viewing at the park, real-time weather monitoring, water monitoring, refuge areas in case of an evacuation and increased personnel.

“We are glad to be in a position to reopen Cummins Falls with added enhanced safety tools and procedures that we are putting into place,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson said. “This area is an extremely rugged area in a dynamic watershed that will never be completely risk free, and the best way to enhance safety is to take a comprehensive approach, and in this case that means new policies, educational tools and wet-weather protocols for our visitors.”

Three new policies are being added regarding access to the gorge and falls:

  • Each child 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Each child 12 and under must have a life jacket.
  • Each child 12 and under must wear the life jacket when swimming.

TDEC also encourages children ages five and under to not enter the falls and gorge areas.

Signage at the trailhead and in the gorge area in English and Spanish will warn of the dangers of flash flooding and provide instructions in the event of a flood. The Cummins Falls State Park webpage will include an informative pop-up that will alert prospective visitors to the potential dangers and strenuous nature of the falls and the hike into the falls. A temporary visitor center has been erected over the trail leading to the falls. It is equipped with two 70-inch monitors playing a safety video on loop as visitors prepare to enter the trail.

A weather monitoring station at the park now serves as the central hub for weather monitoring efforts. Located adjacent to the trailhead, park staff will monitor watershed-specific radar during park operating hours.

“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” Bryson said. “This is the most conservative and appropriate protocol at this time.”

In coordination with Tennessee Tech University, three river monitoring gauges have been installed on tributaries upstream from the falls to measure water levels. These gauges will send texts and email alerts to all Cummins Falls park staff when water levels rise significantly. The alerts will also be sent to two local 911 emergency response centers.

The monitoring gauges have been installed and TDEC has been reviewing the data to better understand the dynamics of the watershed. The system will become predictive over time, but more data is needed.

“At this time, we are not comfortable with the monitoring data itself being the first mechanism to warn visitors of an influx of water into the gorge,” Bryson said. “We will use the data we are collecting as a secondary layer of safety until the system becomes more predictive.”

If the park is evacuated, three refuge areas located above all known flood levels have been cleared of brush and clearly marked. These areas provide easy access to high ground where visitors can seek refuge until they are evacuated or the water recedes.

The park is adding at least two seasonal employees to assist with managing crowds at the park and assist with weather monitoring, visitor education and visitor safety.

“I am pleased with the comprehensive approach and due diligence TDEC has put in to make the park safer for our citizens,” State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said. “Cummins Falls is a world-class recreational destination, but safety will continue to be top priority.”

“We asked TDEC to step up its game in terms of safety at Cummins Falls, and they have delivered,” State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said. “I encourage anyone in my district who visits Cummins Falls to please review all safety information provided and take guidance from park rangers very seriously.”

“TDEC has taken several additional measures to enhance safety at Cummins Falls,” State Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, said. “Cummins Falls is a beautiful place, but people should continue to put safety first when they visit.”

162 reasons to swing through TN’s ‘Golf Capital’

Beware: Bogeyman-haunted traps lurk fore-biddingly about the greens in Cumberland County. But really that just makes for even more good reasons link up with friends or family and set a course toward the “Golf Capital of Tennessee” as the summer days chip away into fall.

Cumberland County didn’t earn that distinctive nickname for nothing. The nine challenging courses — that’s a total of 162 holes — will test your metal (and wood) against some of the finest, not-so-faraway fairways the Volunteer State has to offer.

Magnificent panoramic views are par for the course in Cumberland County. The spectacular 14th hole at Druid Hills, where on a clear day you can see 40 miles, is but one extraordinary example.

Nestled alluringly amidst the Cumberland Plateau’s lovely scramble of hills, cliffs, crags, forests, valleys and water hazards, Crossville lies about 110 miles east of Nashville. The county seat of Cumberland County, it is just 70 miles west of Knoxville, and less than an hour’s drive from Cookeville.

“Being named the ‘Golf Capital of Tennessee’ was not a case of local officials looking for a catchy moniker,” the Crossville Chamber of Commerce website assures visitors. More than half a million rounds of golf are played in Cumberland County each year, and the number keeps driving higher all the time.

Jeff Houston, director of golf at Fairfield Glade, estimates that somewhere between 175,000 to 190,000 rounds are teed up yearly at the popular retirement-and-resort hamlet 20 miles northeast of Crossville.

Cumberland County lays claim to its title due to the number of courses and their indisputable beauty — combined with the “amount of play during the season,” said Houston. There are five courses at Fairfield Glade alone, and two more in the county, plus another two within Crossville’s city limits, he said.

Many golf-enthusiasts from Middle Tennessee and beyond make yearly pilgrimages to Cumberland County. Goodlettsville’s Lisa Moore has been making an annual trek with three of her golfing girlfriends since 1995.

“We like going to Crossville because it’s close and convenient, and it’s just beautiful up there,” she said. “You kind of get the feeling you’re going home or to a favorite place where you can relax and unwind, and the people who work at the courses you see year after year and are kind of like old friends. They’re very nice and very accommodating.”

Below is a list of area golf destinations and a little background about what makes each course special. For more details about golf in Crossville, call 1-877-GOLF-TN1 or go online to: golfcapitaltenn.com.

Hole 13’s green at Dorchester fits neatly into a majestic hardwood-pine forest.

Dorchester Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
576 Westchester Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3709
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jack Sixkiller, 22 years
  • Year Opened: 1977
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,817
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “By today’s standards the course is not long, but the bentgrass greens, narrow tree-lined fairways, strategically placed bunkers and water on six of the 18 golf holes makes Dorchester Golf Club a challenge for even the skilled golfer.” – Jeff Houston, Fairfield Glade golf director for 28 years.

Signature Hole: A par three that plays 30 yards downhill as it drops from tee to pin, lucky Hole 13‘s green is cut out of forest to give a dramatic effect. A creek that borders the rear of the green complex adds further intrigue.

Druid Hills Golf Club at Fairfield Glade
435 Lakeview Drive, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3711
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Rag Jones, 17 years
  • Year Opened: 1970
  • Yardage White Tees: 5,827 yards
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Located on the highest point in Fairfield Glade, Druid Hills provides several 360-degree scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

Signature Hole: A spectacular east-facing vista (where on a clear day you can see 40 miles) added to a beckoning green guarded by a natural rock waterfall makes Hole 14 an unforgettable par 5.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Brae Course at Fairfield Glade
Phone: 421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

Lake Dartmoor’s smooth waters can be rough on wayward approach shots at The Brae’s 10th hole.

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Brae Course debuted the Mountain Nine in 1988 and the Creek Nine in 1991. The opening date of the Brae Course and Crag Course as a 36-hole facility was May 27, 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,980
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: On the front nine, Heatherhurst Brae features a double dogleg par 5 said to be one of the toughest in Tennessee, and the back nine offers three par 3s, three par 4s and three par 5s with undulating fairways and encroaching bunkers.

Signature Hole: Heatherhurst Brae’s Hole 10 is a long par 5 that plays downhill all the way to the green, and Lake Dartmoor will scuttle errant approach shots to the right and rear.

Don’t let the The Crag’s 14th hole beauty distract you because a precision shot is required on the drive.

Heatherhurst Golf Club: The Crag Course at Fairfield Glade
421 Stonehenge Drive, Crossville
(931) 484-3799
Website: fhttps://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Jeremy Jones, 14 years
  • Year Opened: Heatherhurst opened in stages. The Crag Course debuted the Pine Nine in 1989 and the New Nine in 2000.
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,564
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Heatherhurst Crag is player-friendly with tee locations ranging from the most forward tee at 3,600 to the blue tees at 6,200. Bentgrass tees and greens, wide fairways make it great for short hitters and strategically placed bunkers add to the fun.

Signature Hole: If the view doesn’t get you the Hole 17 tee shot will: a short par 4 that offers a dramatic first shot that plays downhill onto a narrow fairway. With Dogwood Branch bordering the left of the fairway and a huge bank and out of bounds guarding the right, a precise drive is required.

Stonehenge’s 14th hole is encircled with score-imperiling splendor.

Stonehenge Golf Course at Fairfield Glade
222 Fairfield Boulevard, Crossville
Phone: (931) 484-3731
Website: https://fairfieldglade.net/fairfield-amenities/ (click on golf)

  • Head Pro: Corey Wade, 10 years
  • Year Opened: 1985
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,202
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Stonehenge is proud to feature bentgrass tees, fairways and greens. Natural rock outcroppings come into play on several holes, with a 15-foot layered stone retaining wall running along the left and rear of the downhill par 3 14th hole.

Signature Hole: A dramatic drop from the tee to the green makes Hole 14 a must-see par 3. Lake Dartmoor awaits in the back for a breath-taking view.

Lake Tansi Golf Course
2476 Dunbar Road, Crossville
931-788-3301
Website: www.laketansigolf.com

  • Head Pro: Gavin Darbyshire, 1 year

    Lake Tansi’s 18th hole is a strong finisher.

  • Year Opened: 1958
  • Yardage from White Tees: 6,205
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: Exceptionally pleasant course for a variety of golfers. It provides a very good challenge for better players from the back tees (6,701 yards) and is still very enjoyable and manageable for mid to high handicap golfers from more forward tees.

Signature Hole: The best is saved for last at Lake Tansi. Hole 18 is a par 5 playing slightly uphill and measuring 592 yards from the back tee. The generous fairway bends from right to left along a hillside as it wraps around Lake Hiawatha. The elevated green, which also slopes toward the lake, presents a challenging finishing target.

Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain
407 Wild Plum Lane, Crossville
Phone: (931) 707-1640
Website: tnstateparks.com/golf/course/bear-trace-at-cumberland-mountain

  • Head Pro: Kelvin Burgin, 6 years
  • Year Opened: 1998
  • Yardage from White Tees: 5,916
  • Unique/ Outstanding Feature: “The golf course has no homes on it. It’s just you and nature,” says Burgin.

Signature Hole: 7.

Cumberland Cove in Monterey
Owner Sam Hicks
16941 Highway 70 N., Monterey
931-839-3313
Website: facebook.com/cumberlandcove/

River Run Golf Club
1701 Tennessee Ave., Crossville
931-456-4060
Website: facebook.com/RiverRunGolfClub/

Features of the River Run course include its signature Par 3 island green, and it has the longest and shortest holes in Cumberland County.

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

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/8/2/twra-leasing-fields-for-2019-dove-season.html

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking fields to lease for the upcoming 2019 dove season. The first segment of dove season opens at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Mourning doves are a popular game bird and one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory bird species combined in 39 of the continental states. In Tennessee, an estimated 19,000 hunters harvested approximately 334,000 mourning doves last year.

Landowners can earn up to $3,600 for providing a dove field for public hunting. These fields must be available for a minimum of three priority hunt dates in September.

TWRA began its leased dove field program in the late 1980s and the program has been very successful in providing quality hunting opportunities for hunters. In addition to leased fields, many public dove fields are provided on wildlife management areas in each TWRA region. The TWRA website will have specific information about WMAs and leased dove fields in each region beginning Aug. 15.

The standard fall leased field is a harvested grain field to which TWRA leases the hunting rights for three priority dates. The hunting access rate paid to landowners for fall leased fields may be up to $75 per acre for a maximum of 40 acres. Fields that are top sown with wheat are eligible for an additional $15 per acre. Interested landowners must sign up their fields in August.

Anyone interested in leasing a dove field to TWRA should contact their TWRA regional office. The TWRA has four regional offices across the state that interested landowners can contact: Region I (West Tennessee) 731-423-5725 or toll free 800-372-3928; Region II (Middle Tennessee) 615-781-6622 or toll free 800-624-7406; Region III (Upper Cumberland) 931-484-9571 or toll free 833-402-4698; Region IV (East Tennessee) 423-587-7037 or 800-332-0900.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 3, 2019:

Most Tennessee Promise Saturday events are on June 22

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks are offering volunteer events at 54 of the 56 state parks for Tennessee Promise scholars to fulfill their community service hours. Most of the events are on Saturday, June 22.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Tennessee Promise students to meet their requirements and be a part of the outdoors at the same time,” said Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Tennessee Promise is giving students a great chance to further their education, and we’re glad Tennessee State Parks can be a part of that.”

Tennessee Promise Saturday includes a variety of work projects at the parks, including landscaping, invasive plant removal, litter pickup, trail maintenance, and more. Participants should wear appropriate clothing for the work and bring items such as water, snacks and sunscreen. Students should check with each individual park on the activities planned and details on what they will need to do and bring.

Students are encouraged to find details about service hours at state parks by visiting https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/tn-promise-saturday.

Tennessee Promise provides students the chance to attend tuition-free any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institutions offering an associate degree program. One of the requirements to maintain eligibility is to complete eight hours of community service. For the class of 2019, the deadline to complete the community service is July 1. The parks also accept help on Tennessee Promise Saturday from any volunteers who wish to participate.

The two parks not part of Tennessee Promise Saturday are Big Cypress Tree State Park and Dunbar Cave State Park, but students near Dunbar Cave can go to nearby Port Royal State Park for its event.

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 14, 2019:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks will celebrate National Trails Day with free guided hikes at all 56 state parks on Saturday, June 1.

This will be the third of the state parks’ signature hikes this year, following First Day Hikes in January and Spring Hikes in March. Thus far, 4,787 park visitors have participated in the hikes.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel connected to nature and to learn about a Tennessee State Park at the same time with the guidance of a park ranger,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Whether you’re interested in a park’s history, seeing incredible views or taking a challenging trek, our parks give everyone that feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The American Hiking Society designates the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day as a day of public events aimed at advocacy and trail service. Last year, 108,947 people participated in 1,203 events across 50 states.

Tennessee State Parks are offering a variety of ranger led hikes, night hikes, history hikes, nature hikes or trail clean-up hikes. With more than 1,000 miles of trails, ranging from easy paved trails to rugged backcountry trails to scenic waterways, the state parks have something for everyone.

For more information about the hikes visit: https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/national-trails-day-hikes/.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, May 3, 2019:

SPENCER – State and local officials, alongside former Tennessee First Lady Betty Dunn and current Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee, today celebrated renovations to the Betty Dunn Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

“This is a special day for Van Buren County and for Fall Creek Falls State Park visitors around the world,” Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers said. “We were especially honored to have former First Lady Betty Dunn cut the ribbon on the facility she helped build.”

The renovations include new pathways, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, from the parking lot to overlooks and down to the nature center. A new overlook was constructed and improvements were made to the existing overlook. The exterior of the nature center has been repaired, with new painting in addition to new stonework. The facility has a new restroom and gift shop.

The nature center offers hands-on environmental education through naturalist-led programs. Other programs include arts and crafts, movies, campfires, organized games and live musical entertainment.

In February 1974, the Tennessee General Assembly named the nature center at Fall Creek Falls State Park for Betty Dunn for her efforts in developing the facility. The nature center, near the north entrance to the park, is a popular trailhead.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s largest and most visited state parks, encompassing more than 26,000 acres across the eastern top of the Cumberland Plateau. With cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and virgin hardwood timber, the park attracts a large following from those who enjoy nature. Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Other waterfalls in the park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 16, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2019/4/16/pr19-12.html

Slatery Joins 17 State Coalition Supporting EPA Plan to Ease Burden on Farmers, Landowners

Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III joined a 17-state coalition this week to support farmers and landowners by urging the Trump administration to adopt its proposed replacement of the Obama-era, Waters of the United States rule.

The coalition, in comments filed late Monday, argued the Trump administration’s proposal would restore reasonable, predictable lines between waters subject to federal and state regulation.

“The proposed rule, unlike the rule that it would replace, respects the traditional role of Tennessee and all other states to regulate their own water resources,” said Herbert H. Slatery III.

The coalition believes the new rule will correct flaws within the 2015 regulation, which extended authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers far beyond what Congress intended and the Constitution permits.

The Trump Administration proposal also shows respect for the primary responsibility and right of states to regulate their own water resources.

The 2015 WOTUS rule, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and asserted federal authority over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.

Tennessee signed the West Virginia-led letter with attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Read the public comments filing here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2019/pr19-12-letter.pdf

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

Press Release from the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau, April 4, 2019:

MANCHESTER, Tenn. – Each year, hospitality and tourism leaders from across the state join together for the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association’s CVB/DMO Conference. Taking place this year in Manchester, Tenn., March 27-28, the Cookeville-Putnam Visitors’ Bureau team not only attended but was featured as an influential destination.

Vice President of Visitor Development Zach Ledbetter was invited to speak to the group of more than 100 Tennessee tourism representatives, sharing best practices and showcasing “How Smaller Destinations Can Do Very Big Things.”

Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, addresses questions regarding best practices during a panel discussion at the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association’s CVB/DMO Conference in Manchester, Tenn. last week.

Ledbetter, who leads the charge for marketing Putnam County as a travel destination, served as a speaker during an extensive panel discussion. Topics addressed included the roots of tourism in Putnam County and how events such as BlueCross Bowl gave the visitors’ bureau and the community the confidence to move forward with recruiting and hosting additional visitor-driven events, e.g. motorcycle rallies, fishing championships, etc.

Additional presentation bullets included development of a strategic marketing plan, creation of established branding pillars, inventory of existing tourism assets and packaging those assets to increase visitation to Putnam County.

Ledbetter also addressed questions from the audience regarding challenges in how to compete with larger as well as similar-sized destinations by leveraging a limited budget with smart and strategic targeted marketing investments, e.g. digital media buys, press releases. Additionally, taking advantage of location and proximity to destinations such as Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga was also covered.

The two-day conference offered specialized sessions and workshops aimed to educate and enhance industry knowledge, expanding the abilities of Tennessee’s convention & visitors’ bureaus and destination marketing organizations.

Putnam County’s most recent economic impact statistics (2017) demonstrate $132.03 million in direct tourism expenditures, an increase of 7.3 percent, landing a spot among the top ten counties for percentage increase over the previous year. Putnam County also saw an 8.1 percent increase in payroll with $24.89 million generated by tourism-related jobs. A 5.4 percent increase showed visitor spending generated $2.7 million in local tax receipts for Cookeville-Putnam County, while employment numbers have grown to 1,060 hospitality industry jobs.