Part of the Dixson Tract, in the center and right side of the photo, can be seen from the Fiery Gizzard Trail near Foster Falls. (Photo: Bob Butters)

Following close behind the recent addition of Denny Cove to South Cumberland State Park, another tract along the Fiery Gizzard has now become part of the park.

Bordered on two sides by existing park property, the 1,058-acre Dixson Tract stretches across a sizable section of plateau top from the main Fiery Gizzard canyon into Robinson Cove below Foster Falls. A partnership among The Land Trust for Tennessee, The Conservation Fund, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Open Space Institute resulted in the purchase of the tract from Dr. George and Ruby Dixson in 2016. Grant funding provided by the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund and the OSI’s South Cumberland Land Protection Fund aided in the purchase and enabled TDEC to take ownership of the property in April.

The tract is adjacent to a section of the nationally popular Fiery Gizzard Trail. Though once ranked by Backpacker magazine as one of the top 25 backpacking trails in the U.S., much of the trail still lies on land that is privately owned. TDEC plans to relocate the section of trail adjacent to the Dixson Tract to just inside its border. According to South Cumberland State Park manager George Shinn, as soon as the rangers and Friends of South Cumberland volunteers complete work on the Denny Falls Trail at Denny Cove, they’ll begin working to relocate this section of the Fiery Gizzard Trail.

This map shows the Dixson Tract in relation to the Fiery Gizzard Trail, Foster Falls and Denny Cove. (Map: Friends of South Cumberland)

According to The Land Trust for Tennessee, there are over 600,000 visitors to South Cumberland State Park annually, many of whom hike on the 13-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail. This latest acquisition boosts long-term conservation goals in the region by filling a key piece of the puzzle in the southern end of the Fiery Gizzard, connecting over 7,000 acres of public and private protected lands, and protecting scenic views from the Fiery Gizzard Trail.

It also builds on other conservation successes achieved in the area in recent years. In 2010, The Conservation Fund partnered with The Land Trust for Tennessee and the state of Tennessee to acquire 6,182 acres along the Fiery Gizzard from a private timber company. Of that, 2,900 acres were added to South Cumberland State Park and 3,282 acres are in private ownership, with a conservation easement held by The Land Trust for Tennessee. Denny Cove, the recently opened 685-acre climbing destination, is only a quarter-mile away from this new addition.    

“TDEC takes land preservation seriously and prides itself on providing top-quality outdoor recreation experiences for state park visitors,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill said. “Additions to our state park system benefit all Tennesseans through the protection of our air, water and habitat, and create more opportunities to enjoy the beautiful spaces we call home.”

OSI Executive Vice President Peter Howell said: “The successful conservation of this land for the Fiery Gizzard Trail is a resounding win for outdoor lovers and wildlife alike. This is an enduring place that truly merits permanent protection, given its critical role in connecting thousands of acres of protected land and facilitating continuing public use of the Fiery Gizzard Trail.”

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.

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