Photo Credit: Alan Cressler
Rhea County

Piney River Bluffs

PROJECT PARTNERS Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Open Space Institute

In February 2022, TennGreen Land Conservancy, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and the Open Space Institute (OSI) acquired 358 acres in Rhea County, known as Piney River Bluffs, to expand the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. Piney River Bluffs is less than two miles from Spring City and is a high-priority acquisition for the linear state park.

The acquisition completes the protection of an eleven-mile trail section through Piney River Gorge, one of the most remote experiences on the Cumberland Trail. The purchase also finalizes the Cumberland Trail connection to Soak Creek State Scenic River to fully join 30 additional miles of the trail network in Rhea and Cumberland counties. The Cumberland Trail extends nearly 300 miles through eleven counties with this acquisition.

Piney River Bluffs is a significant forested habitat, lying along the Cumberland Plateau and within the Cradle of Southern Appalachia, a tri-state, collaborative landscape conservation blueprint spearheaded by the Thrive Regional Partnership.

In 2019, TDEC acquired nearly 400 acres as an addition to the Piney Falls State Natural Area, also in Rhea County.

Piney River Bluffs marks the first project in the Southeast supported by OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, which focuses on protection along the Appalachian Mountain range—home of the world’s largest broadleaf forest. This region stores most of the nation’s forest carbon while providing essential climate refuge for plants and animals. The fund is possible thanks to the significant support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from Lyndhurst, Riverview, and Tucker foundations, and the McKee family from Collegedale, TN.

The acquisition expands TennGreen’s extensive conservation footprint in the region. Since 1998, TennGreen has conserved more than 14,000 acres within Rhea and adjacent counties.