Scenic USA - Tennessee

Burgess Falls State Park

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Big Falls (lower falls) - Burgess Falls State Park, Sparta, Tennessee

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Not far from Cookeville and Interstate 40, Burgess Falls State Park offers visitors a close up look at the Falling Water River and a series of four waterfalls. Middle Falls - Burgess Falls State Park, TN The river cascades through the park, dropping 250 feet overall. The last waterfall lives up to its name, as Big Falls puts on a thunderous 130 foot show. A lake overlook, butterfly garden, playground and large picnic pavilion round out the park's amenities.
     Here in central Tennessee, the riverbed geology consists of a hard cherty Mississippian limestone. Cracks in this top layer of rock allowed river currents to penetrate into softer Devonian shale. Over time the riverbed collapsed into the voids underneath, creating the waterfalls you see today. These erosional forces are still at work, allowing the falls to slowly progress upstream.
     A riverside trail follows along the twisting streambed, with overlook areas at each of the waterfalls. Near the end of the trail, at the lower falls overlook, a steep footpath and stairs River Trail - Burgess Falls State Park, TN descend to the bottom of the falls where views are up-close and very misty.
     Along the falls trail visitors can't help notice several old pipeline supports. An elaborate piping system fed a power-house downstream of the lower falls. Utilizing a three foot diameter pipe made of cedar boards, the pipeline transported water from the dam, across the river (twice) and through a short tunnel to the power plant. The first hydro-electric facility was destroyed in a flood in 1928. The second continued to provide power to Cookeville until 1944. At one time during the late 1800s, the river also powered a sawmill and grist mill. All that's left are foundation remnants of these past endeavors. In 1973 the area was designated a Tennessee State Natural Area. One of a cluster of waterfall sites on Tennessee’s Eastern Highland Rim, this section of the state, halfway between Nashville and Knoxville, is a waterfall fan's paradise.

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