Golf, Food, Cabins, and More at Cumberland Mountain State Park
Days began getting shorter last month and nights turned crisp last week. Autumn is a splendid time to visit Cumberland Mountain State Park. I drove nine miles south of Crossville on US 127 to see how the annual fall display of scarlet, tawny orange and golden yellow was coming along on the Cumberland Plateau.
While driving across the seven-arch dam that impounds Byrd’s Creek and leads into the park, I remembered the first time I’d seen this stunning landmark on a family vacation when our children were still too young to handle fishing rod with hooks.
We stayed in one of the cabins and had a great time. The kids had picnics and fed leftovers to birds and squirrels. I caught bluegills near the dam on Byrd Lake for supper. Paradise.
I was glad to see rustic cabins are still around that were built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps using local sandstone with unusual durability known as Crab Orchard stone. The coloring of the mottled stone varies from tan and buff to gray, blue-gray and rose depending on the iron, titanium and magnesium content. You can see it at Rockefeller Center in New York, the gorgeous chapel at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, the deck around Elvis Presley’s pool in Memphis, and even my neighbor’s front porch.
The park has 37 fully equipped cabins that can accommodate between two to ten people. A couple are duplexes, some are rustic, others more modern with fireplaces and decks. One of them, Coon Hollow, sits apart from the rest at the end of the road and has an interesting history.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt developed a Department of the Interior Division of Subsistence Homesteads program. About 100 homestead communities were established nationwide. In Crossville, 251 families of unemployed miners, timber workers and farmers lived and worked on 35-acre tracts that they could buy after living there for five years. Coon Hollow was one of the Crossville homestead homes.
The Homesteads Tower Museum, located about a mile from the park, is an excellent source of more information about this cooperative homesteading experiment.
Cumberland Mountain Restaurant serves lunch and supper Tuesday-Sunday overlooking Byrd Lake and dam. Evening buffets are popular with guests and locals. Seafood is served on Tuesdays, catfish on Fridays and ribs on Saturday. I visited on a Thursday evening and found both the food and service good enough to make me want to stay another night just for the catfish. The restaurant is open year-round except during the Christmas holidays.
The 1,720-acre park has 14 miles of hiking trails including day use and nature trails as well as an overnight backpacking trail. Rowboats, paddleboats and canoes are available for rent. There’s also a group lodge to accommodate up to 16 people, an Olympic-sized pool, tennis courts, playgrounds and 145 campsites available on a first-come first-served basis with electric and water hookups; 14 have sewer hookups.
One of the park’s most popular spots is the Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain, a 6,900 yard, par 72 Jack Nicklaus Signature Course widely acclaimed for its changing and challenging elevations and well-planned use of natural features.