Off the beaten path: Destination Pogue Creek Canyon

Waterfall at Pogue Creek Canyon.
Killdeer Arch at Pogue Creek Canyon.
Killdeer Arch at Pogue Creek Canyon.

FENTRESS COUNTY – There’s nothing else quite like it in the state of Tennessee – or perhaps even outside the rough and tumble confines of the American Southwest.

Park Manager Travis Bow says Pogue Creek Canyon’s waterfalls, sandstone bluffs, mesas and arches made it a lock as a natural area back in 2006. While it’s taken years to improve public access, a new trail opening this year will take hikers deeper into the once remote area of Fentress County.

“It’s spectacular,” said Bow, who will help lead a hike previewing the new path this May. “It’s like Utah but in Tennessee.”

Situated west of Big South Fork, Pogue Creek Canyon is 3,000 acres in all. It was dedicated to the state a decade ago, but accessibility was limited until additional land purchases were made – possibly making it the region’s best-kept secret.

Volunteers – ranging from Boy Scout troops to Amish trail crews from Ohio – have helped dig deeper into the canyon. One of the newest trails measures about four miles, and Bow and Director Roger McCoy will lead a guided hike on that path on Saturday, May 14, in part to garner more public support for their efforts. They hope the loop will be officially opened in October. The goal is to eventually connect to Pickett State Park on Pogue’s eastern end.

Waterfall at Pogue Creek Canyon.
Waterfall at Pogue Creek Canyon.

“This October, we should have around 12-ish miles of trail completed,” Bow said. “The terrain makes this somewhat daunting task. It’s been a whole lot of work to get it done.”

But it’s been worth it, he added.

“The Plateau is a spectacular place, but this relatively small tract has an enormous percentage of the arches on the Plateau, and mesas you really don’t find anywhere but the Southwest,” Bow said. “It’s a natural beauty, and it’s home to several endangered species. There’s a long list (when it comes to designating a natural area) and this basically checked off everything.”

Amish crews – groups of 14-17 ages 18-24 – were on site this February and last. Others have chipped in bits and pieces along the way. Once Pogue connects to Pickett, hikers can more easily access its 58-plus miles of trail. An even longer-term goal is to extend Pogue’s trail system farther west so the property can be accessed via the Highway 127 corridor and the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park.

“We’re hoping for a little more of a (visitation) boom this year. I think once we get the trail open, that will change quite a bit,” he said. “The whole reason for (protecting) these properties is for people to see them and appreciate them.”



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