Burgess Falls, one of the first Natural Areas, is on Tennessee’s Eastern Highland Rim and is noted for its scenic splendor. Sheer bluffs, narrow ridges, rolling water and abundant mixed forest, characterize this area. The 250-foot drop in the Falling Water River creates stunning scenery and overlooks and numerous waterfalls, a combined 300 feet in elevation. The park is home to over 300 species of trees and plants and an abundance of wildlife. A Native Butterfly Garden is located adjacent to the upper parking lot.
Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw tribes once shared this region as a hunting ground. By the late 19th century, a gristmill and sawmill were in operation at the cascades above the upper waterfall. For the growing logging and farming communities, the river played a key role by providing and recreational opportunities and generating hydro-electric power from 1929 until 1944, run by the city of Cookeville.
Today, preservation of native flora and fauna is a daily management effort. The Native Butterfly Garden is the winner of the 2006 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award in Excellence in Parks and Recreation. The annual Butterfly Garden Celebration every June includes educational programs, hikes, butterfly identification, creek studies, landscaping with native plants and more.
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. Anglers age 13 and older must have a valid fishing license.
The 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop is a moderately strenuous hike, past four waterfalls on the Falling Water River. The waterfalls are 20, 30, 80, and 136 feet in height. The trail from the overlook to the bottom of the main falls is very strenuous. The one-mile Ridge Top Trail is very scenic with views down the main canyon of the Falling Water River.
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 have grills but not water. A larger, covered pavilion can accommodate 80 people and is equipped with tables and grills. Restrooms and a playground are nearby. It is ideal for supervised groups such as reunions and church groups.
The Junior Ranger Adventure Guide is divided into Four Steps. Each step covers different topics and offers a selection of fun, hands-on activites. As you complete each activity, you will be one step closer to becoming a Junior Ranger. Topics in Steps 1 & 2 include: Safety, History, Plants, Wildlife, Astronomy and Water. In Step 3 you will create your own stewardship project. In Step 4 you will take your Adventure Guide to the park ranger or park office to take your pledge, receive your badge and become an official Tennessee State Park Junior Ranger.
Call 931-432-5312 for more information
A playground is available near the picnic pavilion.
Check back soon for more events, or visit our event page for events in other parks.
Burgess Falls lies on the rugged dissected eastern edge of the Eastern Highland Rim resulting in the occurrence of sheer bluffs, narrow ridges, waterfalls, and diverse forest communities. It was named for Revolutionary War veteran Tom Burgess, who received the land in a government grant 1793. For decades the Burgess family provided settlers with meal and cut lumber from their gristmill and lumber mill on Falling Water River.
Today, people come to the park for scenic beauty, educational programs, picnicking and hiking. Visitation has changed dramatically over the years, tripling to 197,000 visitors in the past year. The annual Butterfly Garden Celebration in June and a very dynamic Jr. Ranger program and interpretive program are popular programs. Burgess Falls State Park and Natural Area is the first Tennessee State Park to offer a full month of on-site Junior Ranger summer day camps.
Fishing is good, though boats are allowed only in the shallow lake above the dam, due to heavy silting and lack of a boat ramp. The1.5-mile river trail is a scenic but moderately difficult hike past waterfalls of 20, 30, 80 and 136 feet. The 1-mile Ridge Top Trail is strenuous but very scenic, with views down the main canyon of the Falling Water River.
4000 Burgess Falls Dr.
Sparta, TN 38583
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.
8:00 a.m. until 30 minutes before sundown when gates are closed.