Visitors center opens at Cummins Falls

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Cummins Falls State Park opened a new visitors center. On hand for the ribbon cutting are, from left, Ashley Clark, park ranger, Brian Wilson, Tennessee Department of General Services, Jim Bryson, TDEC deputy commissioner, Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady, State Representative John Mark Windle, TDEC Commissioner David Salyers, Ray Cutcher, park manager, State Senator Paul Bailey, Jordan Hunter, president of Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and State Representative Ryan Williams.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) officials Tuesday opened a new $2.4 million, 5,400-sq.-ft. visitors center at Cummins Falls State Park just north of Cookeville.

“This is an outstanding facility for Cummins Falls,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “It will be a welcome addition to assist visitors who want to enjoy the natural wonder here. This facility will enhance the experience for everyone.”

The visitors center will have a lobby with exhibits, gift shop, rentable conference room, two covered patios, restrooms, and staff offices. The design is intended to blend modern construction with a natural environment, with nearby historic and agrarian buildings. Visitors will go by rangers’ offices as they walk down the trail to the waterfall. The designer is Tinker Ma of Chattanooga, and the construction is by W&O Construction of Livingston.

While the Tennessee General Assembly allocated $2.8 million for the project, the construction came in under budget at a cost of $2,435,354.34.

Cummins Falls State Park is a rugged 282-acre day-use park nine miles north of Cookeville by Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim. Located in the Cordell Hull Watershed, the area has been a scenic spot and swimming hole for residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than 100 years. Cummins Falls, 75 feet high, is Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall in volume of water.

Visitors to the park are advised that Cummins Falls is a natural area with inherent safety risks. Getting to the waterfall involves strenuous physical activity, and access to the waterfall requires a gorge access permit. Gorge access permits are currently only issued on fair-weather days and can be purchased in advance on the Tennessee State Parks website for $6.