& Natural Resources
Mountains & Ridges
As the Cumberland Plateau is characterized by a variation of geological features, the following
mountains are found within the corridor of the Byway (approximately 10 miles):
Cumberland and Crab Orchard Mountains
The Cumberland Mountains extend from southern West Virginia to eastern middle Tennessee and are a physiographic section of the Appalachian Plateau province. The Crab Orchard Mountains, a range of the southern Cumberland Mountains, are located west of the Cumberland Plateau’s eastern escarpment in parts of Morgan, Anderson, and Cumberland Counties. They are distinguished by the rugged, deep gorges created by draining tributaries, with the highest peaks over 3,000 feet. These elevations are comparable to those of the Smoky Mountains and are composed of Pennsylvanian sedimentary rock, or reddish Crab Orchard Sandstone, the masonry frequently found encasing buildings in the area and exported world wide for its architectural quality.
Walden Ridge (or Walden’s Ridge), is the mountain ridge, or escarpment, marking the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau. It is approximately 74 miles long and generally runs from north to south. Walden Ridge’s highest point, 3,048 feet above sea level, is located near Crossville.
The majestic profile of Black Mountain is visible south of the Crab Orchard exit on Interstate 40. Just a fifteen mile drive to the top, on a clear day visitors can see Walden’s Ridge to the east along the Tennessee Valley, and just beyond that are the Smoky Mountains, about 75 miles away. To the south, Grassy Cove, which is a National Natural Landmark, can be seen. This site is frequented by rock climbers and offers impressive views for sightseeing. A rare plant community is known to inhabit the top of Black Mountain. Species once found here include Silverling, spotted Yellow Birch, red-flowering azalea Rhododendron cumberlandense, and the Showy Lady’s Slipper.