A Walk in the Park at Frozen Head
Thunder rumbled and a fine mist settled over the cove at the Visitors Center at Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau as I spoke with Ranger Jacob Ingram.
And that was a good thing. The punishing heat wave that scorched landscapes throughout much of Tennessee was not as immediately visible at Frozen Head. Even before a much-needed week of intermittent rain, the primitive campsites at Big Cove were still shady.
Ferns and wildflowers lined the picnic areas and walkways. But Flat Fork Creek, which is stocked with rainbow trout during February and March, was essentially dry.
Named for Frozen Head Mountain which sits roughly in the middle of the park and reaches the lofty height of 3,324 feet, the park is home to 16 mountain peaks and some of the highest country to be found in Tennessee west of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Once valued for its timber and coal, today Frozen Head is a priceless scenic treasure with an unbroken expanse of mature second growth forest that is home to nearly 800 species of plants and animals. It provides nesting habitat for neotropical migrants like cerulean warblers, a species whose population is declining throughout their range.
With the exception of a 330-acre recreation site where 20 primitive campsites, picnic areas, a group camping area, playgrounds and an amphitheater are located, most of the state park’s 13,000 acres are classified as a State Natural Area. Permits are free but required for 11 additional backcountry campsites.
More than 50 miles of hiking trails traverse the park. Lookout Tower Trail is open for horseback riding and bicyclists. Some trails travel along former forest service roads, old mining roads or railroad beds. Many were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930’s. The most challenging trails climb thousands of feet, burning both calories and calves, while others are literally a walk in the park.
As rewarding as enjoying the bounty of nature at its unspoiled best can be, there are special events scheduled throughout the year to appreciate other aspects of the park and its history.
On Saturday, July 28 the annual CCC Reunion is being held. There will be demonstrations ranging from shingle making to cross cut sawing, photo displays and opportunities throughout the day to appreciate the work done by the members of the CCC camp established at what was then known as Morgan State Forest. The young men worked hard for their $30 per month, $25 of which was sent home to help their families. They surveyed boundaries, built ranger’s headquarters along Flat Fork Creek, dug fire control roads and trails and erected the lookout tower on Frozen Head Mountain. The camp disbanded as World War II began but evidence of their labor remains to this day.
Saturday, August 11 is a time to celebrate the arts, crafts, food and music of the Cumberland Mountains during Heritage Day. Craftspeople, story tellers, demonstrators and old time Appalachian music makers from around the region will perform throughout the day. Vendors will be on site. Admission is free. Contact the park at 423-346-3318 for more information. And be sure to check out more information on all of Tennessee’s State Parks at tnvacation.com/75.