Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee

Registered: Jun 09, 2006
Total Posts: 100
Country: United States

Not sure where to go with this question, so this seems like as good of a place as any....

I'm looking to do a photo trip in a few weeks, and one of the few places I'm looking to capture is the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau area. However, with the drought challenging any potential waterfalls, I'm afraid if I go, all I will see will be dry rocks at the end of the trails.

Can anyone who has been to that area confirm, or suggest where I can go (online) to find out?


Registered: Dec 24, 2011
Total Posts: 2952
Country: United States

I usually check with a local Visitor Center about recent conditions. sometimes it works, sometimes...not so much.

Registered: Aug 29, 2008
Total Posts: 24
Country: United States

Not exactly sure where you're looking to go, but I can tell you that if it's dry, I would stay away from the Scott's Gulf area (Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness) and head to the areas where the water almost never stops falling.

For waterfalls that I've never known to dry up, I would recommend Burgess Falls and the falls in the Rock Island area. I wish I could comment on what Big South Fork is like this time of year, but sadly I've never been.

Hope this helps and hope you get some good shots!

Edit: Forgot to mention Fall Creek Falls. When it's flowing, it's really nice, but it does have a tendency to run thin during the dry months. I wouldn't bother if you're unsure about it.

Here's a shot of Burgess Falls in Sparta (not mine)...

Registered: Oct 21, 2003
Total Posts: 340
Country: United States

You should add Machine Falls to your list. It is located just outside of Tullahoma, TN. The GPS location of the trailhead is 35.407365,-86.174489 . I posted images from that area on the forum here -

From the trailhead, you have an easy 0.9 mile hike to the falls and the route is well marked and maintained.

Also, check this link:

Jon Buffington
Registered: Jun 04, 2007
Total Posts: 1329
Country: United States

Machine Falls (part of Short Springs State Natural Area) and Rutledge Falls will have water. Also the falls at Old Stone Fort State Park are flowing. However, they are in the highland rim area and just below the Cumberland Plateau (not technically on the plateau). Good place on the southern end of the plateau is Savage Gulf, part of south cumberland state recreation area. Horsepound falls will be flowing as well as savage falls. Suter will be dry or almost dry. Also Foster Falls is flowing and is impressive at 65' feet. Fiery Gizzard Creek is down however there are some falls flowing well (smaller). I have shot extensively on the Cumberland Plateau and the above suggestions of Burgess Falls and Rock Island (though Rock Island is not on the plateau) are good suggestions due to their flow of water this time of year. Also, Greeter Falls is impressive and flowing.

Fiery Gizzard Creek in early winter

Greeter Falls in Winter

Old Stone Fort at this time of year (late summer)

Rutledge Falls

burgess falls

bridail veil falls at Sewanee (dry this time of year except after a rain)

machine falls

Ranger Falls (view from behind the falls)

Overhead view of Foster Falls

There are also some off trail hikes to some interesting falls as well.

Milk Sick Creek

Deer Lick Falls (on private property)

and many many more. Feel free to ask any questions about specific falls. I have probably shot it multiple times in this part of the state.

My apologies for so many photos but hopefully this gives you an idea of the different falls around the plateau.

Registered: Aug 26, 2002
Total Posts: 1
Country: United States

Jon, fantastic waterfalls! Would love to get some shoots like these.

Doug C
Registered: Mar 23, 2004
Total Posts: 936
Country: United States

Jon, you have a fine roster of waterfall images here. I need to get back down to Tennessee to shoot more often!

Jon Buffington
Registered: Jun 04, 2007
Total Posts: 1329
Country: United States

Thank you for the kind words, Doug and Rick. I need to post up some recent work just never enough time for processing.