& Natural Resources


On The Water

Burgess Falls in Putnam and White Counties

With two State Scenic Rivers, seven NPS “Outstandingly Remarkable” Stream Segments, and several lakes and reservoirs within ten miles of the Byway, a variety of water sports are enjoyed by many in this region. The area boasts as many as thirty-six water access points within ten miles of the byway, most of which are open to the public year round with 24 hour access. Not only will

visitors enjoy activities such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, rowing, and swimming, but they will be exposed to highly scenic water views, bluffs, waterfalls, and flora and fauna of the Cumberland Plateau. The following water-related sites are accessible from the Byway. Most of the sites offer a variety of recreational opportunities in addition to water-related activities.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Fentress County

Situated within a gorge of the Cumberland Plateau, this is a prime destination for water-related activities as well as camping, hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and hunting. Rafters, kayakers, and whitewater canoers will encounter rapids and whitewater obstacles from beginner to advanced levels. Trails lead hikers and horseback riders to scenic overlooks across bluffs and cliffs. Fishermen at Big South Fork can expect to find smallmouth bass, rock bass, and bream in area streams.

Blackburn Fork State Scenic River

Jackson County

As a State Scenic River, Blackburn Fork has both Class I, Natural River Area, and Class II Pastoral Area, segments. The segment of the stream from the county road at Cummings Mill downstream one and one-half (1-1/2) miles is categorized as Class I, Natural River Area. The segment downstream from a point 1.5 miles downstream from the county road at Cummings Mill to its confluence with Roaring River is categorized as Class II, Pastoral Area. The river is also classified by the National Park Service as an “Outstandingly Remarkable” Stream Segment. It is surrounded by several state parks and campgrounds offering a range of accommodations from tent camping to resort-style lodging. Fishermen will enjoy spending a day on the scenic waters of Blackburn Fork.

Burgess Falls State Park

Putnam and White Counties

Located on the eastern edge of the Eastern Highland Rim, the landscape of Burgess Falls, is considered to be rugged and dissected, characterized by sheer bluffs, narrow ridges, waterfalls, and diverse forest communities. The geology of Burgess Falls State Park attests to its high scenic value, and it boasts the most waterfalls within a two mile distance. Dropping almost 250 feet with a series of three cascades, the Falling Water River makes Burgess Falls a highly scenic waterfall. The last cascade is the most notable, as water plunges 130 feet into the gorge. The curtain of water is broken by protruding rocks about halfway down the cascade, creating a misty spray at the base of the falls.

Foot trails lead visitors through the 350 acre forested landscape of Burgess Falls State Park to scenic waterfalls and sheer bluffs. Burgess Falls can be reached by a steep trail that goes all the way to the edge of the falls with a stairway leading to the gorge. Fishing, hiking, and picnicking opportunities are plentiful in this State Park.

Caney Fork River

Cumberland, Smith, Van Buren and White Counties

The 143-mile Caney Fork, often referred to as the Caney Fork of the Cumberland River, is a major tributary of the Cumberland River system. Center Hill Lake, a major recreation area for Middle Tennessee, as well as the Center Hill Dam, are located on the Caney Fork River in the Cumberland River Basin.

Center Hill Lake

DeKalb, Putnam, Smith, Warren and White Counties

Visitors to Center Hill Lake will find that nearly all the shoreline is undeveloped, offering undisturbed natural scenery including clear water, rock bluffs, and three scenic waterfalls. Center Hill Lake covers 18,220 acres and extends 64 miles through five counties. Recreational activities are numerous, as three state parks and nine Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas are on the lake. State parks and other facilities include Edgar Evins State Park, Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for Craft, Burgess Falls State Natural Area and Rock Island State Park are also located on the lake. Popular activities at Center Hill Lake include fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, canoeing, hunting, and horseback riding. Eight marinas are located on the lake for boating access. Exceptional fishing opportunities here are due in part to the efforts of TWRA and local anglers who have fashioned fish attractors by way of brush piles creating favorable habitat for fish. Fishermen will find smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass (white bass), catfish, bluegill, and walleye in the lake waters. The lake also offers brown trout, rainbow trout, paddlefish, spotted bass, and three types of crappie.

City Lake Natural Area

Putnam County

This 35-acre natural area is located at Falling Water River near Cookeville. Aside from some access improvements, it is preserved in its natural state. Fishermen frequent the park, as they can catch catfish, bass and bream. Other popular recreational activities at the natural area include hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, rafting, hunting, and camping. Cookeville’s first water treatment facility was constructed here.

Cordell Hull Lake

Clay, Jackson and Smith Counties

Cordell Hull Lake, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is located on the Cumberland River and contains a dam supporting a hydroelectric plant about five miles upstream from Carthage. The lake was named after Nobel Peace Prize winner and statesman, Cordell Hull. Recreational activities are located at Roaring River, Wartrace Creek, and Defeated Creek, but not limited to these areas. Visitors to Cordell Hull Lake can enjoy activities such as fishing, camping, swimming, hunting, boating, and hiking. Sand swimming beaches, playgrounds, launching ramps, walking trails, bathrooms, picnic sites, and group picnic shelters are among the amenities available to visitors. There are also two commercial marinas on Cordell Hull Lake, and each provide services such as boat rentals, cabin rentals, fuel, snacks, a restaurant, and other customer needs.

Cummins Falls State Park

Putnam County

Cummins Falls is a breathtaking series of waterfall cascades located near Blackburn Fork River in Putnam County. It was recently designated a state park in 2012. The eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee, Cummins Falls is also recognized by Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the top ten best swimming holes in the United States.

Obed National Wild and Scenic River

Cumberland and Morgan Counties

Name after Obediah Terrell, a longhunter who passed through the Cumberland Plateau in the late 18th century, the Obed became a Wild and Scenic River in 1976 and part of the National Park Service. Visitors to the 45-mile river can partake in a number of activities including primitive camping at Rock Creek Campground; picnicking at Nemo Picnic Area; hiking on trails of varying lengths; hunting; fishing for bass, bluegill, catfish, and muskie; rock climbing the sandstone bluffs; canoeing; kayaking; rafting; and whitewater paddling. It is advised that only experienced rock climbers and whitewater paddlers should partake in these activities. Whitewater opportunities range from Class II to Class IV. Rock climbing routes can reach heights of 200 feet. 

Watts Bar Lake

Rhea and Roane Counties

One of the south’s largest lakes, Watts Bar covers 39,000 acres at its fullest and boasts 771 miles of shoreline; 738 miles are contained within Roane County. Tributaries to Watts Bar Lake include the Tennessee River, Clinch River, and Emory River. The lake is located between the Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam, with a maximum depth of 70 ft near the dams.

Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) and WMA

Anderson and Roane Counties

With shorelines on the Clinch River, unbroken forested land, and elongated ridges and valleys, the ORR has more federally protected plant species than the Great Smoky Mountain on an area basis. This 37,000-acre WMA and Reservation is favorable to almost 200 bird and 1,000 plant species. Several access points open to the public are available for hiking and bird watching. The WMA and Reservation are summer stopping grounds for birds such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuck-will’s-widow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, and Summer Tanager. Brown-headed Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and other resident woodland birds are common year round. At least ten species of wildlife found at ORR are either state or federally protected, and approximately 500 acres of wetland can be found on the reservation.