ALERT: TVA GORGE CLOSURE from Friday, May 19 through the END of JULY.
Due to summer maintenance at the TVA Great Falls Powerhouse, Great Falls Dam will be actively spilling water into the gorge through July 2017 or later. This will result in conditions likely being much different than summers past. When TVA Great Falls Dam is releasing water, visitors cannot safely enter the TVA gorge spillway area.
Visitors are not permitted to enter the gorge (including via the Old Mill Trail or Upstream Trail) during this active spilling period. Some days during this period releases will be moderate and some days flows may be very large with multiple dam gates being open. The water volume may change from hour to hour. The Downstream Trail will remain open due to its elevation above the flood plain. Please note swimming or wading is not permitted downstream of the Powerhouse at any time, regardless of water releases. The park’s sand beach on Center Hill Lake will remain open for swimming. Very large Dam releases upstream can even affect water currents at the sand beach. Please be aware of all of these changing conditions. Obey all park signage for your safety. Check TVA’s website for water release information and further dam safety data at:
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFO: Please read the text below about the Caney Fork River Gorge and Safety Information prior to visiting the park.
Our launch ramp on Center Hill Lake and other ramps closeby on the Caney Fork and Collilns Rivers offer access for great recreational boating. Rock Island is known for it's whitewater kayaking and has hosted international freestyle kayaking events. Some areas of the park are for experienced whitewater kayakers or canoeists only and can be dangerous.
Use extreme caution in all gorge areas. Water levels and currents can change quickly downstream of TVA's powerhouse, or dam without notice. Large amounts of water may be released at any time without warning. Exit immediately if you hear warning sirens or notice changes in conditions. Always wear your PDF and check both generation and dam daily water release schedules for TVA Great Falls prior to visiting. For further information call 800-238-2264 option 4, (#36) or visit http://www.tva.gov/lakes/gfh_r.htm.
The park's natural sand beach is located on the headwaters of the beautiful Center Hill Lake. Adequate parking space and a modern bathhouse are provided. No lifeguards on duty. Always use caution in the gorge. Water may rise rapidly. Monitor your surroundings. Leave the gorge immediately if water begins to rise or you hear warning sirens. Watch for slick rocks and swift currents. Do not jump into water of unknown depths. Swimming or wading is not allowed in all areas from TVA’s powerhouse downstream all the way down to the main beach boat ramp including by the powerhouse, Twin Falls and Blue Hole due to hidden and deadly currents.
Birds such as Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Black-crowned Night Herons can be seen along with Great Blue Herons which have a rookery nearby.
There are four picnicking areas within the park. All are equipped with tables, grills, and drinking water. All have restroom facilities.
Four picnic pavilions that can accommodate 30-100 people each can be reserved for group use. Reservations may be made up to a year in advance.
The park has nine hiking trails with the Caney Fork Gorge area located below the dam being a very popular area for rock hopping, swimming and fishing. This beautiful limestone gorge runs between the Great Falls Dam and the Twin Falls. The area is populated with Great Blue Herons, wildflowers and waterfalls. The Caney Fork Gorge may be accessed via the Old Mill Trail or the Upstream Trail.
Collins River Nature Trail — 3.0 Miles — Natural — Moderate
A 3 mile loop along the outer edge of the Collin’s River peninsula. The trail winds beside the riverbank and gives the hiker a chance to view white-tailed deer, pileated woodpeckers, Christmas ferns and a wide variety of wildflowers. New Connector Trail shortens the trail to 2 miles and takes hikers alongside two cemeteries of the first settlers.
Eagle Trail — 1.4 Miles — Natural — Moderate
This 1.5 mile trail runs from the Blue Hole picnic area to the Badger Flatt picnic area down by the park’s natural sand beach on Center Hill Lake. This trail is naturally stocked with an abundant array of wildflowers and songbirds. Flowers include mountain laurel, pink and white trillium, little brown jug, bloodroot and yellow violet. Some birds which can be seen include warblers, belted kingfishers and osprey.
Moonshine Trail — 1.0 Miles — Natural — Moderate
This short half mile trail runs past the base of an old moonshine still and is teaming with wildlife. Hikers on this trail might get to see Firepink, Jack-in-the Pulpit, deer and barred owls. This trail begins at the tennis court parking lot and ends next to campsite 39.
Bluff Trail — 1.7 Miles — Natural — Moderate
Hikers and bikers are permitted on this wooded, 1.7 mile, lollipop trail that begins at the tennis court parking area. A short side spur blazed in blue brings hikers to a bench overlooking Center Hill Lake below. Hikers may catch a glimpse of a wild turkey, eagle, or coyote on this trail. These are our five main hiking areas in the park but there are a number of other places in the park worth exploring. Feel free to contact the park naturalist, for more information concerning trails.
Downstream Trail — 1.7 Miles — Natural — Moderate
The Downstream Trail is a 1.6 mile lollipop. It departs from Twin Falls Overlook and continues along the very steep bluff line bordering the river. It features views of the Blue Hole below, Twin Falls, Little Falls and various seeps, as well as many spring wildflowers & rock formations. Swimming along this portion of the river is very dangerous and not permitted.
Upstream Trail — 1.0 Miles — Natural — Moderate
The Upstream Trail is 0.5 mile one way. It departs from Twin Falls Overlook parking area going east (across cable) and it provides access to the upper gorge area including swimming spots such as the “Ice Hole” and “Warm Hole”. Swimming is at your own risk in this area.
Blue Hole Trail — 0.5 Miles — Rocky — Strenuous
This extremely steep, wet and rugged 0.5 mile one way trail runs down a windy slope that extends along a beautiful waterfall seep. It is very strenuous & has many steep steps. It has been a popular fishing spot since the settlement of the area. Numerous wildflowers, mosses and ferns can be seen. Some sections have moving and standing water. (Wetlands are fragile - please tread lightly.) This section of the river is dangerous and swimming is not permitted.
Collins River Connector Trail
A two mile total loop branching off of and starting from the Collins River trailhead. A modest hike through hardwood groves taking the hiker to the sites of the very first frontier settlements and 3 cemeteries. A multi-use trail for hiking, jogging and mountain bikes. Hikers have the right of way.
Old Mill Trail — 1.0 Miles — Rocky — Strenuous
The Old Mill Trail is 0.5 mile one way. It departs from the Old Mill picnic area and it provides access to the gorge on the Warren County side. It consists of steep stairs opening into the gorge below. From the bottom, hikers can rock hop or swim at their own risk. The trail and parking lot close at sundown. Parking is limited.
*Use extreme caution in the gorge*
*Water may rise rapidly. Monitor your surroundings. Leave the gorge immediately if water begins to rise or you hear warning sirens. Watch for slick rocks & swift currents. Do NOT jump into water of unknown depths.
*Swimming or wading is not allowed in all areas from TVA’s powerhouse downstream all the way down to the main beach boat ramp including by the “powerhouse”, “Twin Falls” and “Blue Hole” due to hidden and deadly currents.
Boating and fishing are very popular on Center Hill Lake as well as on Great Falls Lake. There is a free public launching ramp on Great Falls Lake. The Blue Hole, on Center Hill Lake, lies adjacent to the park shore and is the spawning ground for the walleye in Center Hill Lake. It is considered one of the finest fishing places in the state. It is accessible via a boat launching ramp located in the park. Fishing is best in the spring, but visitors enjoy boat riding and skiing well into the fall. Catches include bass, muskellunge, bluegill, walleye, crappie and catfish. Valid TN Fishing license is required.
Due to renovation construction at Center Hill Dam and resulting lowered lake levels, please call the park office for most current status and availability of the boat ramps at the park.