Piney River and Tributaries Designated Scenic Rivers (TN)
On June 22, 2020, the Piney River, Little Piney River, and Duskin Creek, located near Spring City, became Tennessee's newest Scenic Rivers when the Governor signed a related bill into law. These creeks flow from the Cumberland Plateau down into deep cliff-lined canyons that are traversed by hikers, paddlers, and anglers. The creeks join adjacent Soak Creek as recently designated Scenic Rivers.
The gorge surrounding Piney Falls has been recognized as a National Natural Landmark for the majestic old-growth hemlock and hardwood forest tucked away beneath cliff bands. The headwaters of these creeks are home to rare species fish that live only in a few Cumberland Plateau streams. The gorges carved by the newly designated creeks also contain beautiful waterfalls including the 80 foot tall Little Piney Falls that have long attracted visitors, and are central features of the Piney Falls State Natural Area.
A popular access area near the confluence of Soak Creek and the Piney River provides a picnic area for Piney River visitors, a central hub for paddlers taking out of several high-quality upstream whitewater runs, and a trailhead for hikers exploring the upstream gorges on the Cumberland Trail. These recreational opportunities draw visitors from around the region, offering sustainable economic benefits to local businesses.
The state Scenic River designation spans mostly state lands, as well as property belonging to several private owners. The designation recognizes a shared vision for voluntarily protecting the ecological and scenic values of the creeks among neighbors and public land visitors, and follows the successful and popular designation of Soak Creek in 2016. The Tennessee Scenic Rivers System is distinct from the federal Wild and Scenic River System, though aims to protect many of the same values.
Senator Ken Yager and Representative Ron Travis introduced the Scenic Rivers bill and shepherded it to unanimous passage on behalf of the landowners and citizens of Tennessee, with the support of outdoor recreation enthusiasts local constituents. American Whitewater and other paddling groups actively supported protection of these streams. The move recognizes that Tennessee is home to unique rivers and creeks that are a source of pride and rejuvenation for Tennesseans and should be protected for future generations.
Just as these streams largely on state lands were exceptional candidates for State Scenic River designation, the Nolichucky River is an exceptional candidate for federal designation. We hope these state designations inspire you to learn more and take action to designate the Nolichucky as a Wild and Scenic River.