Rock Island State Park is located across Warren and White County, Tennessee on Center Hill Lake at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins, and Rocky Rivers and totals 883 acres. The park includes a natural sand beach with a playground and nearby campgrounds for families to enjoy. For the more adventurous types, the white water sections attract professional kayakers from around the world, and the Caney Fork Gorge with it’s deep pools and limestone paths are perfect for hiking, swimming, and exploring. Rising above the gorge is the Great Falls Dam with it’s 19th century cotton textile mill and adjacent Spring Castle. Gorgeous overlooks and trails include views of several waterfalls including the 30 foot Great Falls and 80 foot Twin Falls. Rock Island State Park is a must-see destination that has something for everyone.
Entering the park and following Great Falls Rd to it’s end brings you to two parking lots. The first includes an overview of the Caney Fork River where you can watch kayakers leisurely paddling by and a Nature Trail that was done as part of an Eagle Scout project.
|Overlook of the Caney Fork River|
Moving on to the second, larger, parking area brings you to the park’s natural sand beach and children’s playset with designated swimming area.
Departing the beach area and heading back east down Great Falls Rd, you’ll see Spring Castle on your right, adjacent to the cotton mill. The “castle,” which is essentially a larger version of a spring house, was used by the cotton mill’s workers for refrigeration. It was probably built in the 1890s.
Across the street is the Great Falls Cotton Mill (also called the Falls City Cotton Mill), located on the bluffs above Great Falls. The mill was built in 1892 and operated until 1902. In 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Just before the mill, take a left and it takes you to a parking area with an overlook that includes the Great Falls Gorge, with the northern Great Falls Dam. The gorge includes Great Falls, a series of cascade waterfalls that spill into the Caney Fork River when water levels are low. When levels are high, the gorge completely fills, submerging the waterfalls.
|Great Falls Dam|
|Great Falls Gorge|
A short trail leads from the parking lot to the base of the gorge with it’s deep pools and limestone paths that are perfect for hiking, swimming, and exploring as previously mentioned.
The Rock Island area was used for a considerable number of exterior shots and stunts in the 1994 Sylvester Stallone film, The Specialist.
It’s advised by park officials to NOT jump into the water from various areas along the gorge but despite warnings, it can often be seen in person and in the news.
To reach Twin Falls, the park’s main attraction, you’ll need to leaving the parking lot, and take a left to continue east down Great Falls Rd until you leave the park and take a left onto Rock Island Rd and another onto Powerhouse Rd after crossing the bridge over the Caney Fork River. Following Powerhouse Rd, to it’s end there is a parking area that provides access to the trails that run along the edge of Twin Falls, a cascade waterfall that spills down from an underground cavern into the Caney Fork. It was created by the dam which caused the Collins river to rise, which began seeping into underground caverns on Rock Island’s south shore and exiting at the falls on the north shore. The trails are relatively easy and provide beautiful overlooks of the falls cascades as seen in the photos and video below.