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long exposure photo of waterfall at Burgess Falls State Park

If you needed to go to a place with breathtaking cascading waterfalls, this park has four of them. Burgess Falls State Park is a day-use park situated 80 miles east of Nashville, in Putnam County and White County, Tennessee.

The park is located on the Falling Water River and is known for its spectacular views and natural beauty. The Falling Water River drops 250 feet in elevation on a steep gorge and plunges down for more than 130 feet into the gorge forming gorgeous waterfalls.

This Tennessee state park is a culmination of waterfalls in a dense green forest all to form something akin to the wonder of nature. Even a short trip here has left visitors in awe.

Burgess Fall State Park is made of the state park and state natural area. The area’s earliest inhabitants were Native Americans of the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw tribes. The site served as a hunting ground for the tribes until the late 19th century when a sawmill and gristmill began operating on the river.

Between 1928 to 1944, the Falling Water River was used to generate hydroelectricity for the city of Cookeville. Then in 1973, the territory was designated Tennessee State Natural Area to protect the diverse forest and aquatic habits.

This is what makes the Burgess Fall State Park and State Natural area unique. It is a place rich in history, and nature and is well preserved by both the current state and the native people who lived here.

The Burgess Falls State park also manages Windows Cliff State Natural Area which was opened in 2017. The Windows Cliffs is a 275-acre state natural area located 8 miles away from the entrance to Burgess Falls State Park. This is also a day-use area located in southern Putnam County about 18 miles south of Cookeville. This natural area features a big geological clifftop that is mainly made of a very narrow and elongated ridge lying in the neck of an incised meander of Cane Creek.

When you visit the Burgess Falls State Park, you could either go hiking, fishing, picnicking with family and friends, or canoe and kayak. The Window Cliffs make for a great challenging hike to rouse your spirit of adventure.

Activities

Burgess Falls State Park is popular for its picturesque waterfalls, wildlife, and large pavilion with scenic views of the river. There are additional picnic areas with grills that are large enough for groups and families. There is a Native Butterfly Garden adjacent to the upper parking area which is easy to access and provides some incredible native wildflower displays.

Hiking

The highlight of hiking Burgess Falls State Park is the incredible views of the waterfalls and the dam. All the trails in the park are foot trails. If you are looking for a challenging trail, take the one from the main overlook to the bottom of the main fall. It is strenuous and perfect for anyone looking for a difficult trail.

The state park has two main trails:

  • River Trail – It’s 0.8 miles of natural surface and is classified as difficult or strenuous. You can get a view of the four waterfalls by taking the 1.5-mile round-trip River trail/service road loop. It is a moderately strenuous hike but you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Falling Water River. The 20’ water cascades 30’ on the upper fall, 80’ on the middle falls, and 136’ on the lower falls in height.
  • Ridge Top Trail – This is a moderate, natural surface trail that’s 1 mile. It offers spectacular views of the main canyon below and the Falling Water River.

Fishing

You can also just visit Burgess Falls State Park for fishing. The best places to fish are below the dam, the fishing pier, and the bank of the main waterfalls. Here you will find bream, Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass. This park doesn’t have any public boat ramps nor canoe/kayak access areas.

Birding

Lat-Long: 36.0440, -85.59453

The best place to bird is on the observation deck next to the upper parking area. There are several woodland species along the trails and around the falls. Forest species of common breeding birds such as Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, and Scarlet Tanager are also available.

Bird species: Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, and Wild Turkey.

Educational Programs

Like most Tennessee parks, Burgess Falls State Park has a program for educators. The programs have been designed to make learning fun for your students with a park ranger.

The park offers accessible and experiential education opportunities made to educate and engage your students. You can choose one of the existing programs or make one for your students.

Here are the educational programs available at Burgess Falls State Park:

  • Field trips to the park
  • Ranger classroom or school yard visits
  • Custom programs

Burgess Falls offers programs that cover topics such as:

  • General Biology
  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Animal Adaptations & Keystone Species
  • Park Career Options

Park Location

Burgess Falls State Park
4000 Burgess Falls Drive
Sparta, TN 38583
Phone: 931.432.5312

Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Burgess Falls State Park: