On November 15, 2012, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced that the state acquired the Virgin Falls State Natural Area located in White County. The Virgin Falls area has been under private ownership until the recent acquisition by the state, but the state has managed the natural area for about 40 years.
The state was able to purchase the famous natural area by working with the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. The state received funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), and other private donors.
The state was able to receive federal funding through the Endangered Species Recovery Land Acquisition Fund because there are four threatened and endangered species located on the 1,551 acres of property. Apart from simply maintaining the property, the new federal funds will help restore some of the habitat through a land management plan.
Commissioner Bob Martineau with TDEC stated: “TDEC wishes to acknowledge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TWRA for their continued support. Without the support of the USFWS endangered species grant program and TWRA’s generosity and guidance, the state would not be as successful in the recovery and protection of significant rare species and habitats like those within Virgin Falls.”
Virgin Falls is the most recent natural area established by the state since the Tennessee State Parks system was formed in 1937. The Virgin Falls area is adjacent to the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area that is also owned by the state. The gorges that make up Virgin Falls stretch for about 18 miles as the Caney Fork River descends from the Cumberland Plateau and drains into the Cumberland River.
Most of the property will be managed by Tennessee State Parks and the State Natural Areas program, but the TWRA will also help maintain the property.
Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill with TDEC stated: “This particular property possesses special qualities found on the Cumberland Plateau and its scenic beauty is hard to match. We are particularly thankful for Kathleen Williams and the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation for their immeasurable support and long-time commitment to protect this significant property, along with the many businesses and individuals who have generously contributed to the Virgin Falls effort.”
There are a total of 54 state parks and 82 natural areas in the state. These natural resources range from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains.
Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation