Burgess Falls State Park

Quick Facts

Burgess Falls State Park

Tennessee

(931) 432-5312

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Burgess Falls State Natural Area, located in Middle Tennessee, lies on the eastern edge of Tennessee's Highland Rim adjacent to the Cumberland Plateau. It is noted for its natural beauty. Sheer bluffs, narrow ridges, rolling waters and abundant mixed forest characterize this area. The Falling Water River drops approximately 250 feet, providing numerous waterfalls, breathtaking scenery, and overlooks. The park is home to over 300 species of trees and plants, as well as an abundance of wildlife. Park visitors can visit the large Native Butterfly Garden located adjacent to the upper parking lot. The history of Burgess Falls can be traced back over three centuries. Before European settlement, American Indians of the Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw tribes shared this region as a hunting ground. One of the first white settlers, Thomas Burgess, received a land grant here in 1793 as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. By the late 19th century, a gristmill and sawmill were in operation on the river here. The Falling Water River played a key role for the growing logging and farming communities by providing energy and recreational opportunities. Under protection as a State Natural Area since 1973, visitors today may enjoy the same scenic splendor of Burgess Falls, easily seen from the River Trail.

Map of Burgess Falls (TN)

Latitude, Longitude: 36.049102, -85.592124

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Activities

  • Boating

    Boats are not allowed below the dam and fishing boats are allowed only in the shallow lake above the dam. Due to the heavy silting and the lack of a boat ramp, this is not a desirable lake for boating. Trolling motors are the only type of motor allowed on boats in the lake.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Tour Buses are welcome but groups are encouraged to call in advance to insure best service. Recommended parking for buses is the first parking lot on the right as you enter the park. The first lot is designed for buses, mobile homes, and large camping vehicles.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is allowed year-round. The most common catches are large and small mouth bass, brim, and carp. The most popular fishing sites are along the lake, below the dam, and below the main falls. The waters of Center Hill Lake reach the base of Burgess Falls. There is no boat ramp. Anglers age 13 and older must have a valid state fishing license.

  • Hiking

    The 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop is a moderately strenuous hike taking visitors past four waterfalls on the Falling Water River. The waterfalls range from 136 to 20 feet in height. Most people prefer to hike back to the parking lot along the service road. The 1-mile Ridge Top Trail is very scenic with views down the main canyon of the Falling Water River. Please note that the trail from the main overlook to the bottom of the main falls is very strenuous. All trails are foot trails. Bikes and horses are not permitted.

  • Historic Sites

    The park area was named for Tom Burgess, who was deeded the land in 1793 by the U.S. Government as partial payment for his services in the Revolutionary War. The Falling Water River played a very important role in the development of the surrounding region. Along this river stood a grist mill operated by the Burgess family, which provided meal and flour to many settlers of the region. There was also a sawmill powered by the river that provided lumber. This replaced handsawn lumber, which represented a large expense of time for settlers. However, in 1928, torrential rain caused the dam to wash out. When the dam broke, the resulting rush of water completely demolished the powerhouse constructed. The new dam and powerhouse produced electricity until 1944, at which time it became obsolete due to the Tennessee Valley Authority's massive new dams and powerhouses. Today, the Burgess Falls Dam still stands, although character of the area has changed. After many years of neglect and abuse, the area is once again being allowed to return to its proud and natural state.

  • Picnicking

    Burgess Falls Natural Area offers picnicking below the dam with a scenic view of the river. The park has 16 picnic tables, 12 of which are equipped with grills. None of the picnic tables are equipped with water spigots. Picnic tables are not covered and are available on a first come, first-served basis. A larger, covered picnic pavilion can accommodate 80 people and can be reserved up to a year in advance. The pavilion is equipped with tables and grills. Restrooms and a playground are nearby.

Seasonality/Weather

The park is open year-round, but it is closed when the river is high or when there is snow on the roads and/or trails.

Directions

Driving

From I-40, take Exit 286. Turn South off the 286 ramp onto State Highway 135. Proceed on Hwy 135 for 7 miles following the signs to the park.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(931) 432-5312

Links