Harpeth River is a unique, linear park with cultural, historic and natural significance. The park consists of 12 satellite sites along the beautiful, Class II Harpeth River blueway, with canoe access throughout, including archaeological sites. Several miles of trails provide views of wildflower, forest, waterfall, bluff and the dramatic panorama of the Harpeth Valley.
The Narrows of the Harpeth provides a unique river experience. The solid limestone bluffs force the flow of the river to wind back on itself, providing a five-mile river float with only a quarter-mile hike back to the starting point. This feature was the reason Montgomery Bell drilled through the bluff to take advantage of the water power provided by the elevation change.
Three park sites are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Narrows, where, in 1818, pioneer industrialist Montgomery Bell used slaves to drill, blast and chisel a 290-foot tunnel through the bluff. It is one of the oldest man-made tunnels in existence. His Pattison Forge (named for his mother) was not built until 1832. Bell is buried across the river from the forge.
Mound Bottom, upstream from the Narrows, is an important ceremonial and political site of Mississippian Period Mound Builders. Mace Bluff provides excellent views of the mounds and a petroglyph of a mace used in ceremonial functions.
Newsom’s Mill, one of the oldest gristmills in the area, dates from 1862. The family quarry provided the limestone blocks for the mill, some up to five feet long, each one dressed by hand, marked with Roman numerals and laid out without mortar. The site also has a mystery attached: during construction of a dam at the site, builders found a skeleton with a pitchfork through it.
The Hutton family quarry provided stone for many buildings around Nashville. The quarry site later became Hidden Lake, a family resort. Today, it is a perfect site for naturalists, who enjoy the trails, views and abundant wildlife.
Whether you enjoy the thrill of fly fishing or spin casting, the river hosts large and small mouth bass, bream, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish and other game fish. Remember all Tennessee state fishing and boating rules apply.
For your hiking and wildlife viewing pleasure, enjoy the solitude and tranquility of several miles of easy to difficult trails meandering through wildflower meadows, lush forests, and along majestic bluffs. At the Narrows of the Harpeth three trails originate at a common trailhead near the park entrance. A two mile bluff overlook trail includes a steep ascent to a narrow bluff offering hikers a panoramic view of the Harpeth Valley. A half-mile trail along the backside of the limestone bluff leads to the site of Montgomery Bell's Pattison Forge where a small waterfall is all that remains of the iron forge operation. Another half-mile trail connects the canoe launch area to the canoe take-out parking area at the Harris Street Bridge Access Area. At the Gossett Tract there are two trails. A one mile trail circles a meadow and another one mile trail winds along the river providing a glimpse of Mound Bottom Archeological Site.
At Hidden Lake a one mile trail meanders around and through a wildflower meadow. Another trail offers a half-mile hike through the forest and along majestic bluffs to a small lake with a one mile spur trail ascending to the top of a ridge where the remains of an old marble dance floor are all that remain of a 1940's resort.
The Harpeth Scenic River Complex includes canoe accesses at the U.S. Hwy. 100 Bridge, the 1862 Newsom's Mill ruins, and at the McCrory Lane Bridge at Hidden Lake. Downstream, the Narrows of the Harpeth provides an upstream and downstream access, the Bell's Bend five mile float and a unique 1/4 mile portage.
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 (615) 952-2099 for more information.
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Trails in the park vary from easy to difficult, with three trails starting at the Narrows of the Harpeth near the park entrance. The two-mile bluff overlook trail is steep, but well worth the work to reach the view at the top. Along the back of the limestone bluff, a trail leads to the waterfall at the site of Montgomery Bell’s iron forge operation.
In addition to hiking and canoe and kayak opportunities, visitors enjoy fishing for bream and bluegill and swimming and wading in the river’s shallows.
The Flood of 2010 changed the river course, gravel bar locations and dimensions, removed trees and vegetation, washed away river banks, trails, picnic tables, signage and roadways. While hiking or canoeing at the park today, one can see the destructive power of a raging waterway.
Mound Bottom is accessible only by guided tour. Hiking trips into the Mound Bottom Complex are available October through March with reservations. Other hikes scheduled periodically. Artifacts uncovered here are on display at the nearby Montgomery Bell State Park.
From I-40 exit 188
Follow signs to Hwy 249 and turn right.
At the end of the road turn left on Hwy 70w.
Turn right on Cedar Hill Road.
Turn left on Narrows of the Harpeth Road.
The Harpeth River State Park is a day use park. April to October: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. November to March: 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.