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A Life in a Day at Fall Creek Falls

Megan Kopp - Click to Enlarge
by Megan Kopp

Shhh!  Listen.

Hear that twang, like somebody plucking a bass guitar string?  That’s a green frog trying to attract chicks... uh... make that female green frogs. The noise of the amphibian chorus is almost overwhelming -- green frogs, bullfrogs, cricket frogs, spring peepers. 

Nocturnal wandering in Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park, Tennessee is full of sound adventure.  We dodged fireflies, admired grazing deer and crossed fingers we wouldn’t stumble over any skunks.  But don’t worry if you’re not into the night, this park has something to offer everyone.

Our day began with a just under 2 hour drive northwest of Chattanooga towards the Cumberland Plateau and home of the highest waterfall east of the Rockies -- Fall Creek Falls at 256 ft.  Established in the mid-1930’s, the park became a refuge for city-dwellers from then-polluted industrial meccas. 

Clean air, plenty out outdoor activity and 20,000 acres of wilderness to hike, camp and picnic in was the answer.  The early 1970’s brought a flood of construction and the resort complex added accommodation and activity options that made it truly a park “for all people.”

Passing the lush greens of the championship 18-hole, par 72 golf course, we drove to one of the dozen picnic areas scattered throughout the park and munched happily on boxed lunches beneath oak and hickory trees. 

A short stroll took us to the viewpoint for Fall Creek Falls and our first glance of the Cane Creek Gorge.  While the bulk of the visitor facilities are located on the plateau, the gorge and its environs offer a refugio for 10 different federally endangered species of plants and animals, including the Indiana bat. 

Taking the one-way Scenic Loop Drive, we stopped at Millikan’s Overlook for a panoramic view of Piney and Cane Creek Gulf.  For those who get weak-kneed at the thought of heights, a word of warning, the cliff here run about 1100 ft. from the top of the bluff to the bottom of the gulf.  According to one source, it was here that Dr. Glenn A. Millikan, a scientist studying the bluffs and the animals which inhabit them, fell to his death while rock-climbing.  

By early afternoon we left the van behind and climbed aboard our mounts for an hour-long horseback ride through the shady forest surrounding the Fall Creek Falls’ Stable.  Our guide Reid kept us entertained as he sang a raunchy Chris LeDoux song and regaled us with life as a kayak-loving cowpoke heading into pre-law.    Fall Creek Horses- Click to Enlarge

Back in the van again we toured the Village Green complex, complete with its Olympic-sized pool, recreation center, amphitheater, snack bar (the ice-cream cones come highly recommended), tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, baseball fields, laundry, general store and Outdoor Center. 

The Outdoor Center rents bikes, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, child carriers, binoculars and more.  With 3 miles of paved bicycle paths, 30 miles of mountain bike trails, almost a dozen dayhikes and several overnight backpacking destinations to explore, it was a beehive of activity.  Campers were also enjoying mild spring temperatures as we walked through one loop of the nearby 227-site campground. 

Cane Creek Cascades Click to Enlarge Climbing down the wooden steps from the Cascades Nature Center, we watched enviously as families cavorted in the surprisingly warm water of the Cane Creek Cascades.  Not to be outdone, we quickly donned swimsuits and continued to slide down rocky slides into the large pool below the suspension bridge until the sun disappeared behind the treetops.  “Aw...do we have to go now?”  

Having worked up quite an appetite, with stomachs growling, we joined other hotel guests for the “southern-style” buffet dinner at the Fall Creek Falls Inn and Restaurant, overlooking Fall Creek Lake.  The breaded catfish was a catch worth keeping! 

As the night deepened, we put on walking shoes once more and ventured out into the black abyss, lured on by the call of the wild in the midst of a resort.  Spring peepers, no way I’m going to sleep...er...maybe tomorrow I’ll take time to rest.  There’s just too much to do! 

If You Go:

Directions:

From Chattanooga, take I-24 northeast toward Dayton. Turn off and follow Highway 111 north to the park entrance on the right.

For further information contact the park at:

Route 3 Box 300
Pikeville, TN 37367-9803

Phone: 423-881-5298

Fax: 423-881-5103

Or visit the Tennessee State Park Website at:

http://www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/fallcrek/index.html

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Megan Kopp is a freelance writer published in a variety of markets including Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, Western People, YES Magazine, Western Parent, Northwest Family and The Traveler’s Journal. She has traveled extensively throughout Western Canada and the United States; spent time in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Belize and have recently been re-directing her writing efforts towards sharing my passion for new sights, smells and sounds.

Email:  Megan Kopp

 

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