Scott's Gulf is a 900-ft deep canyon at the upper reaches of the Caney Fork River on the Cumberland Plateau. The public lands within the Gulf are comprised of Virgin Falls State Natural Area (one of the Bowater Pocket Wildernesses), named for it's signature feature, and the 10,000-acre Bridgestone/Firestone Wilderness. Bridgestone Firestone had the property up for sale in the 1990s. Facing pressure from opposition to a logging company's offer to buy the property, Bridgestone/Firestone decided to gift a large portion of land surrounding the Gulf to the State on the grounds that the land would be used for low-impact recreation, and that no structures would be built in the canyon1.
The hike to Virgin Falls follows the Big Laurel Creek drainage into in a steep canyon, passes several falls, caves, a large sinkhole, and ends at a lovely campsite on the Caney Fork River. Virgin Falls is geologic wonder, where a river emerges from a cave opening on a steep slope, flows for 50 yards before falling over 110 vertical drop into a sinkhole below. In the springtime you'll find a wide variety wildflowers, most notably the azalea and mountain laurel display in May.
From the end of the Virgin Falls trail you can hook up with the adjacent Bridgestone/Firestone Wilderness and it's trail system, with several other falls and caves to explore. A map of the trails is posted here.
Both parks are managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Read about the Bridgestone/Firestone Wilderness formation here. The SummitPost site has an article here. The State's Virgin Falls SNA site is here. Various Scott's Gulf features are pictured here.
Be aware that several park trails require unbridged stream/river crossings that could be impassible in high water.
May 2, 2009
May 22, 2010