Fall Creek Falls State Park
|Fall Creek Falls State Park|
|Type||Tennessee State Park|
|Location||Bledsoe and Van Buren counties|
|Area||26,000 acres (110 km2)|
|Operated by||Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation|
Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park is a state park in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties, in the U. S. state of Tennessee. The over 26,000-acre (110 km2) park is centered on the upper Cane Creek Gorge, an area known for its unique geological formations and scenic waterfalls. The park's namesake is the 256-foot (78 m) Fall Creek Falls, the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
The Cane Creek Gorge presents as a large gash in the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, stretching for some 15 miles (24 km) from the Cane Creek Cascades to Cane Creek's mouth along the Caney Fork. Cane Creek rises atop Little Mountain— which lines the plateau's eastern edge above Sequatchie Valley— and winds northward across the plateau.
Just beyond its source, Cane Creek slowly gains strength as it absorbs Meadow Creek and several smaller streams. As the creek enters the gorge, it drops several hundred feet in less than a mile, including 45 feet (14 m) over Cane Creek Cascades and 85 feet (26 m) over Cane Creek Falls. A few hundred meters north of Cane Creek Falls, Rockhouse Creek spills 125 feet (38 m) over a plunge waterfall into the same plungepool. Over the next half-mile, Cane Creek absorbs Fall Creek and Piney Creek, both of which enter from smaller gorges to the immediate west. During this stretch, part of the creek disappears underground into limestone sinks, and reemerges at a spring known as "Crusher Hole." Cane Creek continues to lose elevation before steadying near its confluence with Dry Fork. Beyond Dry Fork, the creek gradually descends to the Highland Rim, where it empties into the Caney Fork.
The man-made Fall Creek Falls Lake, controlled by a dam, assures continuing flow of water to Fall Creek Falls. The lake dominates the park's southern section.
- Fall Creek Falls, a 256-foot (78 m) plunge waterfall located just west of the creek's confluence with Cane Creek. A short trail leads from the parking lot atop the plateau down to the base of the gorge, giving access to the waterfall's plungepool.
- Cane Creek Falls, an 85-foot (26 m) plunge waterfall located along Cane Creek, above the creek's confluence with Rockhouse Creek and Fall Creek. The waterfall is visible from the Gorge Trail and from the base of the Cane Creek Gorge, which can be accessed via the Cable Trail.
- Cane Creek Cascades, a 45-foot (14 m) cascade located along Cane Creek, just above Cane Creek Falls.
- Rockhouse Falls, a 125-foot (38 m) plunge waterfall that marks Rockhouse Creek's confluence with Cane Creek. The waterfall, which shares a plungepool with Cane Creek Falls, is visible from the Gorge Trail and from the base of the Cane Creek Gorge.
- Piney Creek Falls, a 95-foot (29 m) waterfall located along Piney Creek, a mile or so above its confluence with Cane Creek. Trails lead to the base of the falls and an overlook above the falls.
- Coon Creek Falls, a 250-foot (76 m) plunge waterfall that drops into the Fall Creek Gorge, nearly adjacent Fall Creek Falls. Its proximity to Fall Creek Falls renders it less conspicuous.
- Cane Creek Overlook, located just off the Gorge Trail, looks out over Cane Creek Falls and Rockhouse Falls.
- Cane Creek Gorge Overlook, located just off the Gorge Trail, looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge.
- Rocky Point Overlook, located just off the Gorge Trail on an exposed cliff, looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge.
- Millikan's Overlook, located just off the road in the Piney Creek section of the park, looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge, near the confluence of Piney Creek and Cane Creek.
- Buzzard's Roost, a cliff located near Millikan's Overlook.
- An overlook adjacent to the Fall Creek Falls parking lot looks down into the Fall Creek Gorge.
Along with waterfalls and overlooks, Fall Creek Falls State Park is home to a number of caves, the most prominent of which is Rumbling Falls Cave, which has the second largest cave chamber in the United States. The cave is located in the park's Dry Fork section, near Spencer.
Camps Gulf Cave is another large cave located in the park that contains very large chambers. All Park caves are currently closed in an effort to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats.
The plateau areas above the Cane Creek Gorge are characterized by poor soil and weak resource potential, both exacerbated by the area's limited accessibility (by the 1920s, no major railroads and one crude highway passed between Pikeville and Spencer). In the early twentieth century, this section of Van Buren County still had only a handful of farms and no major coal mining or logging operations. Local historian Arthur Weir Crouch, referring to Fall Creek Falls, wrote, "In the beginning and for many years it was a true wilderness area."
The few residents who lived in the Cane Creek area were often at the mercy of the creek, which, like most of the Upper Caney Fork watershed, was prone to flash flooding. The Good Friday Flood of 1929, the most devastating of these floods, caused the Caney Fork and its tributaries to swell to record volumes and wiped out dozens of mills, houses, and bridges. Lawson Fisher, who operated a grist mill at the head of Cane Creek Falls at the time of the flood, recalled being awakened that night by the roar of the creek's rising waters. Racing into the mill to save the mill's account books, Fisher later testified:
I had taken perhaps four or five steps when I felt that old mill building quiver. I turned and ran for the door and stepped out on solid ground, and then turned around to see what was going to happen, but folks, it had already happened. The mill wasn't there. I could just see pieces of planking and timbers going over the falls and rushing on down into the valley of Cane Creek below.
Another resident recalled waking up to a cabin floor covered with several inches of water, and spending the night in the cabin loft watching helplessly as the water continued to rise. Several smaller farms in the lower part of the valley were completely destroyed. The Cane Creek Mill, which had stood above the falls since 1831, was never rebuilt.
The state park
In 1937, the U.S. government began purchasing the badly eroded land around Fall Creek Falls. The following year, the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps began the work of restoring the forest and constructing park facilities. The National Park Service transferred ownership of the park to the State of Tennessee in 1944.
Millikan's Overlook is named after Glenn Millikan, who was head of the Department of Physiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and son of Nobel Laureate Robert A. Millikan. Millikan was killed by a falling rock on May 25, 1947 while rock climbing "Buzzard's Roost," the cliff beneath the overlook.
In 2006, the State of Tennessee purchased 12,500 acres (51 km2) of land along the White-Van Buren County line, in the vicinity of Bledsoe State Forest. The purchase is part of an effort to create an unbroken corridor of publicly owned land between Fall Creek Falls State Park and Scott's Gulf, a few miles to the north in White County.
Park facilities and management
Fall Creek Falls State Park is open year-round and is managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Park facilities include an inn and conference center, restaurant, cabins, and three campgrounds, each with bathhouses, offering a total of 228 camping sites. An 18-hole golf course, Olympic-sized swimming pool, and several miles of hiking trails and paved biking trails are available in the park.
The park is scheduled to undergo a major renovation of its facilities in 2013–2014. The cabins, inn rooms, and lodge will be updated, and a privately operated zip line will be installed at the Village Green.
In the arts
Fall Creek Falls State Park was used as one of the primary filming locations for the Disney live action movie The Jungle Book and the comic science fiction film Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, starring Jim Varney. Scenes from the 1986 movie King Kong Lives, starring Linda Hamilton, were filmed in the area of Cane Creek Cascades and Cane Creek Falls.
- Stuart Carroll, "Fall Creek Falls State Park Natural Diversity," 24 August 2004. Retrieved: 8 January 2008.
- Camas Davis, "Exposing Tennessee's Titanic Cave Chamber." National Geographic Adventure (March 2002). Retrieved: 2 September 2008.
- The Tennessee Environmental Council, "Saving the Rumbling Falls Cave System." Protect vol. 32, no. 1 (Spring 2002), 1, 6.
- Arthur Crouch, The Caney Fork of the Cumberland: The Story of a River, Its History, Features, Moods, People and Places with Particular Reference to Rock Island and the Area Above Great Falls (Nashville, Tenn.: Crouch, 1973), 81.
- Crouch, The Caney Fork of the Cumberland, 17.
- Crouch, The Caney Fork of the Cumberland, 17-18.
- Crouch, The Caney Fork of the Cumberland, 40.
- Ruth Nichols, "Fall Creek Falls State Park." The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: 7 January 2008.
- Crouch, The Caney Fork of the Cumberland, 81.
- Park information sign at Millikan's Overlook.
- "Accident Reports". American Alpine Journal (The American Alpine Club) 7 (1): 100. April 1948. Retrieved November 6, 1947.
- The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, "Bredesen Announces Purchase of More than 12,500 Acres from Bowater Incorporated." 27 November 2006. Retrieved: 8 January 2008.
- Ben Benton, "Fall Creek Falls Cabins Target of $1.4 Million Facelift," Chattanooga Times Free Press, 27 July 2013.
- Teresa Biddle-Douglass, "William Gilbert Gaul." The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: 8 January 2008.
- Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission (2010), Tennessee Film/Videography, page 12
- Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission (2010), Tennessee Film/Videography, page 16
- Tennessee Film/Videography, page 10, Tennessee Film and Music Commission.
- Fall Creek Falls State Park official website
- Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
- Fall Creek Falls State Park at DMOZ
- Rumbling Falls — Into the Void — image gallery of Rumbling Falls Cave