Fiery Gizzard’s New Route Offers Challenge, Beauty
by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
The second phase of the Fiery Gizzard Trail reroute opened in December and although the new route is more challenging, there’s also new beauty.
“All I’ve heard is people praising it,” said Ranger John Ball of the South Cumberland State Park. “People are big fans of the rock work that was done; there’s a lot of new rock staircases, and small retaining walls built to bolster up the trail that not only look cool but serve a great purpose—it’ll help the trail last longer.
“There’s also several waterfalls that the trail goes by that weren’t accessible before and are really pretty,” he added.
In addition to waterfalls, the reroute skirts sandstone rock faces and offers new views of overlooks and other facets of nature.
In mid-2015, the park announced that a middle section of the trail would be closed after a private property owner decided not to allow access there. Another section near Raven Point was slated to close in December 2015 for a similar reason.
Park staff and volunteers got to work creating about two miles of new trail to reroute around the private properties, which took more than a year. The work, primarily on weekends, involved dealing with an 800-foot drop into a gorge. Boy Scouts, college students, Friends of the Park, rangers, and many others cleared brush, rock and trees, prepared the ground, installed stone steps and wooden staircases, and built dams and bridges, including one across McAlloyd Creek.
“It was a monumental undertaking and it couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of a lot of very dedicated volunteers,” Ball said.
A 300-acre wildfire in October 2016 delayed the project after a scorched part of the re-route needed repairs, park officials noted.
Latham Davis, president of Friends of South Cumberland State Park, said people who love the Fiery Gizzard met the challenge.
“Originally it seemed distressful, both because we were having to change the route of a long-loved trail that had existed for a very long time, and the fact that it was going to take a lot of effort to reconstruct part of that trail,” Davis said. “But as it turned out we had a tremendous outpouring of help with that. So many more volunteers than we expected showed up and we had a great effort from the park rangers.”
The almost 13-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail starts at Grundy Forest Trailhead nears Tracy City and goes to Foster Falls. Since the 1970s, park officials have overseen the trail with the cooperation of a number of private property owners, officials said. Ellen Stamler, a private property owner, provided an access road so crews could bring in materials and equipment for the reroute.
The Lyndhurst Foundation, Sequatchie Valley Electric, Tennessee Trails Association, REI Tennessee, and the Friends of South Cumberland provided funding and materials for the project.
Visit friendsofsouthcumberland.org for more information, including videos of the reroute.