A DAY AWAY
By Mike Steely
The Niagara of the South is about two hours north of Knoxville and has some features you won’t find many other places.
While early explorer Dr. Thomas Walker is credited with naming the Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland Gap and Cumberland Falls after England’s Duke of Cumberland, the 68-foot-tall cascade may have been first encountered in a hair-raising adventure.
The story goes that explorer Zachary Green and his men were floating down the river on a raft in 1770 when they heard a falls ahead. Green and his men abandoned the raft just before the falls and hiked around the falls to continue their journey at the bottom of the falls.
Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is more than familiar to me. I went to school in Williamsburg and the park was our closest state park. My high school held picnics there and my family and I visited the park often over the 10 years we lived just a few miles south of the falls. As an adult, my wife and I and our two sons often visited there as well, picnicking there near the river, and exploring the bluffs and trails.
The park has so much to do and rich history as well. In 1930 a Kentucky senator, T. Coleman DuPont, purchased 600 acres there and donated it to his home state. The state bought additional acres there to bring the total size to 1,657 acres and a large facility, DuPont Lodge, was built along with cabins by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Where the restricted viewing area atop the falls is located now there was once a popular hotel called the Moonbow Inn. “Moonbow” was an appropriate name because on a full-moon night a rainbow appears in the mist just below the falls.
The park offers various adventures during the year including backpacking 101 trips, overnight canoe trips, a nature photo weekend in April, Birding and wildflower weekend in May, a craft festival in September and a Moonbow Trail Trek in November. Also offered at the park are mountain biking trails, fishing, square dancing, archery, and white-water rafting. There are also tennis courts, horseback riding, and just about anything you’d expect in a premier yet historical state park.
There are two camping areas at the park but the parking space for campers is pretty short and larger RVs may find it difficult to park. We visited the park recently and found the camping areas were closed for the season. You might want to call ahead or check the internet for availability.
You can find Cumberland Falls State Resort Park on the internet or you can call the park at (606) 528-4121.
The easiest way to reach Cumberland Falls is simply taking I-75 north to Williamsburg and taking the second or north exit to Highway 25W and following that road to Highway 92. Follow that winding highway to the many attractions on the way to the falls including a pony ride, campground, renovated water tower, a public pool, the DuPont Lodge, etc. The lodge has rooms and a noted restaurant.
On your way to the park you might want to swing through Williamsburg’s historic downtown area, drive through the University of The Cumberlands college campus there, or after the falls you can drive Highway 92 to link up with Highway 27 and return to Knoxville via Oneida and Huntsville, Tn.