Friday, May 10, 2013

Obed Wild and Scenic River National Park

Just 7 miles from Frozen Head State Park is a National Park I'd not heard of before, Obed Wild and Scenic River NP. The Visitor Center is in the town of Wartburg, TN.
The National Park consists of a narrow area of land on both sides of the Obed River and its tributaries. These rivers have been free-flowing for thousands of years, carving spectacular gorges with 400-foot cliffs. Access is limited because there is no road that follows the river, and only a few that cross the river. 
The bridges provide access for rafters, kayakers, and fishermen. The Obed system offers some of the most challenging whitewater in the Southeast ....mostly Class III and IV rapids along its entire length during the rainy season. 
So really the only way to explore the park is by rafting or hiking. I chose hiking and came here to the Lilly Bluff Trailhead.
There are several trails that begin here, but Thistle and I came to hike the Point Trail.
But we'll start off with the shorter Overlook Trail.
Approaching the Bluff Overlook.
This Bluff overlooks Clear Creek, one of the major tributaries of the Obed River. Below is the bridge we crossed to get here. One of the trails leads from the bridge up to this overlook. We drove to the upper parking lot and skipped that trail.
A view along the bluff.
Looking back to the point where we took the picture of the bridge.
Reading about the area's history...first American Indian hunters, then fur trappers and loggers. The terrain was inhospitable for long-term settlement.
A gristmill operated just upstream from the bridge in the early 1900s until floods destroyed it.
Lilly Bluff offers a nice view of the river and the gorge in the distance. 
Point Trail will take us to the top of those cliffs.
A cross-section of the gorge.
Some of the rare and fragile plants protected by the boardwalk.
This is the start of our trail.
Point Trail is more than just a walk in the woods. It has many interesting features, such as huge boulders to walk amongst.
A bridge over Melton Mill Branch. The waders were left by a Ranger who was leading some school kids in the area.
More rock formations.
The arrow on the tree points to the path we must take to get to the top of that cliff where our trail continues.
The path up the side of the cliff.
We made it to the top.
Want to look down?
You never know what might surprise and reward you for your efforts....this time a Pink Lady Slipper in bloom.
Onward we go along a mountain track.
Another interesting wildflower I haven't seen before. This is a colony of Squawroot, a parasitic plant that makes its living off the roots of oak trees.
I found a great website that helps me identify the wildflowers:
The scratches on this tree are the only potential sign of black bears I have seen on my hikes, and these are old.
I don't pick up feathers anymore, especially in a National Park, but a picture is ok.
I decided that the best way to ford this stream on the stepping stones was to go first and have Thistle follow. So I lined him up behind me. That plan worked well until I took my first step to the stone in the middle which wobbled. Thistle took that as his signal to leap, landing in the stream and up the other side. Fortunately I've been doing my Wii balance exercises and was able to regain my balance. Only Thistle got wet. On the way back I let him go first.
This tree did not develop a very deep root system growing on that rock, so toppled in a storm.
And another Lady Slipper.
These blooms are called Eastern Sweetshrub, aka Carolina Allspice, and Strawberry Shrub. The petals are supposed to be aromatic when crushed, but I didn't try that.
We have come to our first viewpoint of the gorge.
A place to sit and have lunch before heading back.
Another view
Thistle the Braveheart, my valiant protector has found another snake! This one looks like a harmless black snake, but we must be ever cautious, because the signs warn of Copperheads and Rattlesnakes in these parts.
A side trail under the natural arch.

Which leads to another viewpoint of the gorge.
A look up the gorge.
We have come to the end of our trail.
"But Mom, it can't be the end...I see more trail ahead!"
Thistle is not exactly posing for this picture; he's looking at the apple.


  1. Looks like you and Thistle had a fantastic hike. Sounds like he is a great hiking and RVing companion. I am so happy you found each other.

  2. I would love to do some hiking like that...but I have to stay on flat high places for me...just looking at pic's almost give me panic attack...but love your pic's