I had a Friday off on an absolutely gorgeous day, so Chet and I decided to road trip up into Tennessee to check out some waterfalls. First up, well, lunch. Hey it was my day off and I slept in! I like finding local places to eat so I took to Yelp and found Collins River BBQ & Cafe in McMinnville, Tn. According to its Facebook page they recently won “Best of the Best BBQ in Warren County,” plus they have local micro-brewed beer on draft. Sounds like a place not to be missed, and we were not disappointed. It’s an old building, full of character and decorated with odds and ends like old potato sacks, a guitar made of license plates, and an old canoe hanging from the ceiling.
Chet had a pulled pork sandwich, homemade onion rings with a dipping sauce, and black beans with a bit of a cinnamon kick. I had just the sandwich, plus stolen bites off Chet’s plate. It was all yummy. They carry beer from Calfkiller Brewing Company which is about 30 miles down the road in Sparta, Tennessee. I tried to Fire Roasted Coffee Stout while Chet sampled an ale called Smokey Treat. Of course, I thought mine was the best but they were both really good.
Well fueled up, it was time to actually go find those waterfalls. Our first stop was Rock Island State Park in Rock Island, Tn. This lovely park is located along the Caney Fork River Gorge, where the Caney Fork, Collins, and Rocky rivers come together.
Great Falls is a 30 foot horseshoe fall, directly accessible from the parking lot of a picnic area. When we were there, there was only water coming over a part of it. There is a dam upstream, though, and when TVA releases water from the dam, the whole fall disappears under water!
Next to Great Falls is an old 19th century textile mill once powered by the falls, and across the street is the charming “Spring Castle.” Basically it is a fancy spring house built while the textile mill was in operation. The water behind the wall in the reservoir served the mill and local houses, plus provided fire protection which was very important since fires at textile mills were common.
Next we walked down a short, steep path to a point downstream of the falls but at river level. As I mentioned before, TVA will sometimes flood the gorge, creating a raging river with dangerous currents. They really want you to be careful!
After climbing back up out of the gorge, we drove around to the other side of the park to see Twin Falls. This 80 foot tall, 200 foot wide waterfall is visible from a parking area, but we opted to take a short gently sloping trail down to river level and then walked along a level path next to the river to get good views of the falls.
Next up was Burgess Falls State Park and Natural Area, a small park about 20 miles down the road. There, the Falling Waters River flows through a steep gorge, dropping 250 feet in less than a mile. Leaving from the parking area at the nature center, the River Trail is a gentle, shady path along the river giving you views of three waterfalls, the remains of an old bridge, numerous seeps, and if you’re lucky a wildflower or two.
The first fall is Little Falls, some places called Upper Falls, a 30 foot cascade.
As the river flows on downstream, it cuts further into the gorge and picks up intensity until it drops another 80 feet at Middle Falls.
It’s hard to tell much about scale from a photo,but if you zoom up on the one on the left, you might be able to make out a group of 4 guys fishing from the rocks. A couple of guys had strung up hammocks in the trees facing the waterfall – what a beautiful spot to relax in, huh? I had no hammock, so I had to make do with a perfectly sloped boulder.
The final waterfall for the day was Ozone Falls, about an hour’s drive down I-40 just past Crossville, Tennessee. This one was a short walk from the parking area to the top of the falls, but the best view comes from a short rocky trail down to the plunge pool.
At this point, it was getting close to 5:30, we were both starving, and we still had a 2 and half or 3 hour drive before we’d get home. Chet had the brilliant idea of taking a route home that would take us through Chattanooga, where we could stop and have dinner at one of the many brewpubs there. Great idea! Off we went down US 27 to Chattanooga.
After some quick internet research, we picked The Terminal Brewhouse, a locally owned brewpub located right next door to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This building was built in 1910 as the Terminal Hotel to provide lodging for travelers. The location turned out to be a great thing for us, because we had about a 30 minute wait for our table. We just walked next door and explored the old train station.
We ended the day with good food and another sampling of craft beer. I tried their oatmeal stout and Chet had their witbier.
It was a great ending to a wonderful day!