COVID-19 UPDATES: Keeping Visitors Healthy

Cummins Falls Reopening with New Gorge Access Permit

May 14, 2020  |  Permalink

Cummins Falls State Park reopened on May 15 with a new online permitting system to limit gorge access. The new, online Gorge Access Permit is available now

The online permit will assist park rangers in protecting visitors, staff and the natural environment. 

There are a few important things to note about the new permits and the reopening plan:
  • Gorge Access Permits will be required for any visitor wishing to enter the gorge or travel to the base of the waterfall. 
  • The park will reopen with 100 permits available per day. The park will adjust available quantities based on visitation and park usage habits. 
  • The permits will only be available online and can be purchased for $6.00. The fees will cover administrative and technical costs at Tennessee State Parks. Visitors wishing to enter the gorge will be required to purchase a permit and present confirmation of the purchase, either in paper or electronic form. 

    • Purchase of the permit does not ensure your safety in the park.
    • Purchase of the permit does not guarantee access to the park or the gorge. Access to the gorge is subject to weather events, and the gorge may be closed without warning. No refunds or rainchecks will be issued.
    • Please note: No refunds, exchanges, date transfers, or rain checks will be issued for permits.
  • All permit holders will be required to watch a safety instructional video before gaining access to the gorge. 

    • In response to COVID-19, safety briefings will be held with a maximum of nine visitors at a time. Park staff will work to coordinate and streamline these briefings. 
  • While gorge access is limited to 100 people per day, access to the overlook and other hiking trails above the gorge will not require a permit. 

    • The park has opened three additional miles of hiking on the “Delia Bell Meadow Trail” for visitors to enjoy without a permit. The trail includes a new overlook. 
  • The total number of vehicles from permit holders and non-permit holders will be closely monitored. 

    • In response to COVID-19, rangers will limit park access to 50 vehicles at a time. 
    • If a permit holder arrives and the parking lot is full, rangers will allow the permit holder to enter provided they can produce a paper or electronic copy of the day’s permit. 
    • Visitors will not be allowed to park in the “overflow” parking areas at this time. 
  • We advise all park visitors to follow our recommendations for Keeping Visitors Healthy during COVID-19.

    • Practice social distancing.
      • Maintain at least six feet of separation between you and other visitors. 
    • Don't travel long distances to visit state parks at this time.

      • We recommend that you look for parks that are a short distance from your house. 
    • Don't visit crowed areas.

      • If parks are full, consider coming back at a different time. Consider coming earlier in the day to allow for plenty of time if an area is full and you need to adjust your plans. Tennessee State Parks may limit access to certain parks or areas if capacity is reached.
    • The full list of recommendations is available on the Keeping Visitors Healthy page.

The online Gorge Access Permit system is another step in the state’s comprehensive plan to manage Cummins Falls State Park. It will also aid in the effort to help visitors maintain social distance in light of COVID-19. The above-mentioned rules are in conjunction with previously established management practices at the park:

  • Cummins Falls State Park will operate under the Fair Weather Standard Operating Procedure. Gorge access will be limited to only those times when the weather is fair. The gorge will be evacuated if rain is present anywhere in the watershed. 
    • We recommend that children under the age of five (5) not enter the gorge or visit the base of the waterfall. 
    • The park uses a real-time monitoring system to track rain and water level increases in the watershed. 
    • In the event of flash flooding, visitors should proceed to refuge areas. These areas are denoted by signage in the gorge and pointed out during the safety briefing. 
  • Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult and must wear a life jacket while at the falls and while in the water or swimming.

    • It is recommended that individuals bring their own personal floatation device (PFD), as it could prove to be difficult for park staff to sanitize all life jackets between use.  
    • The park will maintain a certain number for those individuals who do not bring one with them and will make every effort to sanitize them between use.
    • Park staff will sanitise the park-owned life jackets throughout the day between uses. Park staff will do this as best they can in light of the demands of the day. To sanitize, the life jackets will be sprayed with alcohol and hung to dry, per the US Coast Guard recommendations from the Life Jacket Association (LJA). 
    • A spray bottle filled with alcohol will be available by the life jackets in the event park staff are unavailable to sanitize the life jackets.  
    • At the end of the day the life jackets will be sanitized and hung to dry to be ready for the next day's use.
  • USCG approved life jackets are advised if you plan to get in the water below the falls. While some life jackets are available at the park, we recommend bringing your own.
  • Signage at the trailhead and in the gorge area warn of the dangers of flash flooding and provide instructions in the event of a flood. The signage is displayed in both English and Spanish.
  • The gorge area of the park is a natural feature, but is a rugged area with inherent hazards. The gorge and waterfall are not easily accessed and can only be reached by foot. Routes to the gorge area are steep with uneven terrain and have significant elevation drops. Natural trail surfaces are varied and include water crossings, boulders, and other obstacles. Visitors are urged to keep the weather in mind when planning a visit. Sudden heavy rainfalls can result in flash floods and streams can become dangerous. 
  • The following items are prohibited in the gorge and at the base of the waterfall:

    • Alcohol
    • Strollers
    • Glass
    • Pool floats

For more information about Cummins Falls, or to view the safety briefing video, please visit tnstateparks.com/parks/Cummins-Falls

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Tennessee State Parks