Fiery Gizzard’s Denny Cove is now officially open to the public as South Cumberland State Park’s newest addition.
Representatives of several conservation organizations have worked hard over the past six years to protect Denny Cove, and they joined park rangers and other interested parties March 17 for an on-site dedication ceremony. Following remarks from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Conservation Brock Hill, Marion County Mayor David Jackson, South Cumberland State Park Manager George Shinn, Conservation Fund representative Ralph Knoll and several others, a climbing rope carabiner unclipping took place.
The 685-acre tract at Denny Cove was acquired primarily because of its potential as a rock climbing destination, with around 150 climbing routes on nearly 3 miles of cliffs.
"It really is a nationally significant climbing area," Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie said.
Located in Marion County between two other popular climbing spots, Foster Falls and Castle Rock, Denny Cove’s acquisition was the result of partnerships among The Land Trust for Tennessee, The Conservation Fund, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Open Space Institute, Access Fund and a number of other organizations.
Liz McLauren, president and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee, said, "This is a model collaboration project that we would love to see replicated again and again across this state."
Read an earlier article about the Denny Cove project here.
After several months of ownership by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Denny Cove was handed over to the state of Tennessee in December for inclusion in South Cumberland State Park.
But Denny Cove isn’t just for climbing. It’s also great for hiking. There are 3 miles or so of hiking trails traversing a variety of terrain. The first half-mile of trail from the parking lot to the rim of the cove is easy hiking, passing through plateau-top forest. Upon reaching the cove, a short trail to the right takes you to an overlook of Denny Cove and the Fiery Gizzard.
Because of trees, the winter view is much more expansive than it will be in summer.
Back at the beginning of the overlook trail, continuing straight ahead, the trail begins to descend into the cove. Another short trail to the right, called the Denny Cove West Trail, follows the base of the bluff with some impressive overhanging cliffs. Going the other direction on the Waterfall Trail for at least a mile, you’ll arrive at the very scenic 70-foot Denny Falls. The very last section of trail before the falls is still under construction, at least when I was there recently, making a rather challenging hike over some very rugged terrain. Overall, this trail travels along a somewhat-even elevation partway down the hill from the bluff, and once finished, it will be an easy to moderate hike. Another trail, Denny Cove East, parallels the Waterfall Trail uphill along the base of the bluff. It’s primarily for use by climbers and is a bit rugged for hiking.
In addition to its use for outdoor recreation, Denny Cove is also valuable wildlife habitat.
"Conserving the land is not just great for people, it’s also good for wildlife," said Joel Houser, Open Space Institute’s Southeast field coordinator. "Denny Cove is part of a landscape that has species found nowhere else in the world."
For now, Denny Cove is open only on weekends, from about 8 a.m. Central time to 30 minutes after sunset. Work is still ongoing to complete the trail system, and there are plans to add a backcountry camping area and restrooms.
Note: Despite what you may read on these sites, I’m told by park staff that Denny Trail Days are currently planned for all Saturdays and Sundays in April. In addition to trail work at Denny Cove, volunteers are needed by South Cumberland State Park for trail work and other duties at other locations. Learn more here.
Find directions to the Denny Cove trailhead here. You can also search for "Denny Cove at South Cumberland State Park" on Google Maps, which marks the entrance gate on U.S. Highway 41. The only trail map I’m currently aware of is the one on the new trailhead kiosk.
Bob Butters explores nature and the outdoors, primarily in and near the South Cumberland region, and publishes the blog www.Nickajack-Naturalist.com. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 8:54 a.m. on 3/28/17.