Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Lifestyles

April 5, 2012

State park celebrating National Areas Week with special hikes

CROSSVILLE — Tennessee State Natural Areas Week is April 9-15. To celebrate this special week, Cumberland Mountain State Park will be doing two hikes. Ozone Falls hike will be April 14 at 9 a.m. Piney Falls hike will be April 15 at 9 a.m. CDT. They will be meeting in the parking lot at each site. Do not forget your camera.

From Crossville, travel east on I-40 and exit at the Crab Orchard exit. Turn left off the exit ramp and go to the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 70. The highway takes you straight to Ozone Falls, which is on the right about four miles from the interstate exit.

The Natural Areas Program was established in 1971 with the passage of the Natural Areas Preservation Act (T.C.A. 11-14-101). Since passage of this act, the General Assembly has designated 81 State Natural Areas. Management and use of State Natural Areas is governed by this act and the Rules for the Management of Tennessee Natural Resources Areas. Many of these Natural Areas are managed through Cooperative Management Agreements with other local, state and federal agencies as well as with non-governmental organizations (Department of Environment and Conservation).

Here in Cumberland County, residents are fortunate to have two State Natural Areas, Ozone Falls State Natural Area and Piney Falls State Natural Area. Both Natural Areas are managed by Cumberland Mountain State Park and the Division of Natural Areas.

In the 1800s, Ozone Falls consisted of a grist and sawmills which were built at the top of the falls. In the spring of 1900, a flood came through and washed the last grist and sawmill over the falls. Old timers say Ozone received its name because of the “stimulating quality of the air” that was created by the mist of the falls as it plunged 110 feet below.

Ozone is on the eastern rim of the Crab Orchard Mountains on the Cumberland Plateau. Ozone Falls and 43 acres were designated to the state of Tennessee in 1973. Ozone is a 110-foot waterfall that plunges over sandstone cap rock. Its waters flow from the creek called Fall Creek and disappears underground until it re-emerges downstream some several hundred feet. The rock cap in which Ozone flows over creates an amazing rock house amphitheater. The formation of the rock house was created over time by wind and water freezing and thawing and by erosion.

There is a variety of plant life found at Ozone. At the top of the waterfall, the two most dominate plants are the oaks and Virginia pines. Below the waterfall, the plant life consists of the eastern hemlock, yellow birch, tulip poplar, red oak, white pine, magnolia, sugar maple and rosebay rhododendron. Two common wildflowers that are found here are jack-in-the-pulpit and jewelweed.

Like Ozone, Piney Falls State Natural Area was designated to the state of Tennessee in 1973. Piney Falls includes 440 acres of old growth forest, a variety of plant life and two breathe taking waterfalls which flow from Little Piney Creek. Piney is recognized as a National Natural Landmark in Tennessee. These landmarks are the country’s best remaining examples of major biotic communities and geologic features. There are only 14 found here in Tennessee.

The most significant thing about Lower Piney Falls is the forest itself. It has some of the tallest white pines located here in the gorge. Some of these white pines reach 40 inches in diameter and tower more than 100 feet tall. Just upstream from the lower falls, you will find Upper Piney Falls. Here, the forest is home to the state tree, the tulip poplar, buckeye, hemlock and basswood. At the top of Piney Falls, you will find a commonly mixed forest of oak and pine.

Little Piney Creek flows into the plunge pool of Upper Piney Falls, an 80-foot drop. It then continues on only to drop another 40 feet into the Lower Piney Falls plunge pool. In the spring a variety of wildflowers bloom in this magnificent place. Some of these include the crested iris, hepatica, yellow wake robin, perfoliate bellwort, spotted geranium, bloodroot and the state listed dwarf milkwort.

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