While natural attractions draw visitors from across the country to Rock Island, the area also has a rich history dating to prehistoric time. World-record fish caught in the “Blue Hole” keep fishermen coming year after year, and its true depth remains a mystery, with sunken rock pillars indicating the possibility of a collapsed underwater cave. Four-time world freestyle kayaking champion Eric Jackson is a Rock Island resident, manufacturing his own brand of kayaks in nearby Sparta and regularly bringing world-class kayakers to Rock Island.
A number of rare and endangered plant and animal species live in the park, with wildflowers from both Highland Rim and Central Basin flourishing here. Once considered a nuisance, the magnificent Twin Falls, formed water flowing through caves and cracks in the limestone, is now a beloved and much-visited feature in the park. The water finds its way through the stone as a result of the construction of Great Falls Dam in 1917.
One of the first large-scale hydro-electric dams in Tennessee, Great Falls turned the area into a popular 1920s resort, where Nashville’s elite once came to vacation. The land was first settled by Revolutionary War veterans who received land grants from South Carolina. Old homesites and cemeteries are still visible along the trails. The small Battle of Rock Island in 1792 was important as the last battle of the area Cherokees before signing their land over in the Treaty of Tellico.
A 19th-century textile mill and spring castle are along the entrance of the park and are the only structures left of the small town of Falls City that once built up around the Great Falls Cotton Mill. The mill itself was powered by the 30 foot falls below. It now is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rock Island State Park has two campgrounds. ten sites with water and electricity and a bathhouse, in the tent only area. Fifty sites also are equipped with water and electricity, and bathhouses in the main campground are open to both tents and RVs. The park also has 10 modern cabins, equipped with linens, cooking utensils, satellite TV and gas fireplace and sleep a maximum of 10 people each. Only one cabin is pet friendly, with an additional charge. Reservations may be made by calling the park office: 931-686-2471, or online at https://tnstateparks.itinio.com/rock-island for camping and https://tnstateparks.itinio.com/rock-island/cabins for cabins.
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