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Don't Go Stepping in Waterfalls

Location: Burgess Falls

Sparta, TN (4000 Burgess Falls Dr, Sparta, TN 38583)

20 min south of Cookeville and about 1.5 hours east of Nashville, TN

Length: 1.1 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Hours of operation: 8:00 AM and closes one hour before sunset, year-round

History: In the late 19th century, the river became an operating gristmill, which provided meal and flour to the settlers and sawmill, which provided lumber. In 1928 severe rain washed out and destroyed the dam. The dam was rebuilt and between 1928-1944, Cookeville was powered by hydroelectric power that was generated by the Falling Water River. The mill was named after Tom Burgess, a revolutionary war vet, whose family ran the mill. In 1973, the land became a Tennessee state natural area and is protected.

Burgess Falls: My first attempt of going to Burgess Falls was in the summer 2019. My friend and I arrived, only to discover it was closed due to storm damage. I was excited to go back a year later with a group of friends. We traveled 1.5 hours from Franklin, TN. We walked about 0.5 miles to the top of the falls. It is an easy hike. You do have to walk down a steep hill to reach the top of the falls. There used to be a staircase to the base, but it was damaged in a storm and has not been repaired. The bottom can only be accessed by canoe or kayak.

From my first adventure in 2019

Story time: Once we reached the top of the falls, we saw people walking around in the ankle deep, slow flowing water. The area above the falls is very large and extends far from the edge.

It was a summer day in Tennessee, so it was very hot and felt great to walk in the water. We were just walking around, taking pictures and taking in the scenery, when we heard a loud whistle. We hurriedly made our way back to find a man tell us we are not allowed to walk in the water. We were confused because there were no signs anywhere near us, but, we respectfully got out of the water and went to sit on the rocks instead. He proceeded to tell us we had to leave immediately. Now we were all shocked. We did not know we were not allowed in the water and we got out right away without complaining. So, although we were very disappointed and confused, we packed up to continue on the trail. He told us we had to leave completely and we could not keep walking on the trail. He literally followed us as we headed back. At the top of the hill we found a sign that said, “no wading above waterfall”, but this sign was small and very easy to miss, especially when you are in a group and talking with friends. None of us saw it on the way down. We came to a fork in the road that took us on the trail we came from or the access road. The man made us take the road, rather than the trail and proceeded to follow us in his truck as we walked the walk of shame back to the parking lot. This felt extreme given there was NO sign near the water, no warning whatsoever, and we were respectful, we got out immediately and we apologized because we were unaware of this rule. It was quite disappointing to drive 3 hours round trip for only 40 minutes at the falls. BUT we did have a lot of fun, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and now have a story of how we were unintentionally rebels and got kicked off a waterfall!

I am sharing this, not to discourage you from going here, but to let you know, DO NOT WALK IN THE WATER. There is a lot of false information online. I saw reviews (one was even from earlier that month), saying the water at the top of the falls was perfect for walking in. Burgess falls is absolutely beautiful. It is unfortunate I have had 2 unsuccessful attempts here, but I still want to go back and redeem it for attempt number 3. Next time I would love to bring a picnic and sit at the top, far from the water, and enjoy the view...and maybe even kayak to the base!

Hop on the "kara-van" and let’s take the adventurous route,

~ Kara Renee’



Hey friend! Thanks for stopping by!

I'm Kara! I'm just a directionally challenged girl, who loves adventure! What most people call getting lost, I call taking the adventurous route! So jump on the "kara-van" and let's take the adventerous route!

Let's get lost together!​​



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