Located just off of Tennessee State Route 135 between Cookeville and Sparta lies Burgess Falls State Park. The main focus of the park is it’s main 136 foot tall cascade, Burgess Falls… named after Tom Burgess, a Revolutionary War veteran who settled along this section of the Falling Water River in the 1790s, whose family used the Falling Water River’s rapids to power a grist mill and eventually a saw mill that supplied early settlers with cornmeal and lumber.
Entering the park, you pull into the parking area which includes the trailhead to the 1.5 mile Burgess Falls Loop Trail, which follows the bluffs along the south bank of the gorge. The trail is family friendly and leashed dogs are welcome.
From the parking lot it’s a short walk to the Falling Water Cascades overlook, located just downstream from the old Burgess Falls Dam, the river gradually spills over a 10 foot embankment of rocks.
Almost immediately downstream from the Cascades, the river drops another 30 feet at Little Falls. Continuing down the trail there are hand railings and wooden steps making it easy to navigate with children.
For comparison here it is under high flow!
Moving past Little Falls, the river briefly bends to the north and after awhile you come to Middle Falls, an 80 foot cascade.
An overlook was available at one time, but was destroyed during a time of high precipitation and volatility of the river… one of the reason’s the park is occasionally closed to the public.
Past Middle Falls, the trail continues downstream to where the river bends westward again to Burgess Falls. The 136 foot cascade spills into a large limestone gorge enclosed by sheer walls. Downstream the Falling Water River enters Center Hill Lake. The only way to view it from the base currently is to kayak upstream towards it.