Cummins Falls State Park, the 54th addition to the Tennessee State Parks system was officially dedicated on Tuesday, May 22.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau joined members of the General Assembly, local elected officials, and members of the community to dedicate the newly created park.
“I want to extend my congratulations to the citizens of both Jackson and Putnam counties who rallied in support of preserving and protecting Cummins Falls as a state park, opening up to the public a beautiful, one-of-a-kind landmark for use today and for future generations,” Gov. Haslam said.
“Cummins Falls will not only serve as a constant reminder of the natural beauty Tennessee has to offer, this new state park will continue to demonstrate how private/public partnerships can work together to make a difference.”
Located on the beautiful Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, this idyllic 211-acre site in Jackson County is home to Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall at 75 feet high. Cummins Falls is formed on the Eastern Highland Rim and has been a favorite scenic spot and swimming hole for local residents for more than 100 years.
Situated in the Cordell Hull watershed, Cummins Falls’ forest includes a variety of oaks, beech, buckeye, sycamore, and hemlock trees. Woodland plants include October’s lady tresses, star chickweed, liverleaf and Allegheny spurge. The property’s forested streamside protects turkey, quail and eagles, as well as a variety of fox, mink, and unique insects such as damselflies and dragonflies.
While Cummins Falls State Park is officially open to the public, enhancements to the park—including trails, additional road work, restroom facilities, and a small park office—are still part of the overall park management plan.
Cummins Falls’ rich history includes a time when Indians used the area to track the numerous buffalo that wallowed in the river’s shallow areas. In the 1790s, Sergeant Blackburn, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and for whom the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River was named, was awarded the land in lieu of a pension.
The land was acquired by John Cummins in 1825, and he used the land to build the first of two mills. Because of his growing clientele, a larger second mill was built in 1845. Local residents would visit the mills and the falls for both commerce and recreation.
The mill was washed away during the great flood of 1928, but cars and paved highways had already begun to make the trek to Cummins Falls more accessible.
The land was not rebuilt but stayed with the Cummins family for more than 180 years until the recent efforts by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation to purchase the land through private and public donations for resale to the state of Tennessee for nearly $1,040,000.
Cummins Falls is the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee in volume of water, and was named one of the top 10 best swimming holes in the United States in the “America’s Best Swimming Holes” article in Travel and Leisure magazine.
Tennessee State Parks
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Cummins Falls State Park
Cummins Falls State Park is a 211-acre park located nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. In the rolling hills where Putnam and Jackson counties meet, the stream gives way to a 75 foot drop.
Hours of Operation: This day-use park and is open from 8:00 a.m. CT until sunset, year-round
Address: 1225 Cummins Mill Road, Cookeville, TN 38501
Directions: From I-40, take exit 286 towards Cookeville; go northeast on S. Willow Ave. for 3.2 miles; when in Cookeville, turn left onto W 12th Street (the road turns into TN-290W/Gainesboro Grade); drive 6.6 miles and turn right onto Cummins Mill Road, go 3.1 miles and turn left onto Blackburn Fork Road and the Park entrance will be on the left.
Phone: (931) 432-5312 (Burgess Falls State Park phone #)
It’s a hard-earned scramble to the bottom that involves hiking to the overlook, wading across the ankle-deep stream, climbing up to the ridge, and using a rope guide to walk yourself down to the water. This is not a swimming hole for lightweights. Translation: expect a younger crowd. But if you’re agile (and sure-footed), the descent into the cavernous pool is worth the effort.
—Alice Bruneau, Travel and Leisure magazine, June 2010