In the distance mist rising up over the water lets you know that the Cumberland River is about to do something amazing just downstream from the parking lot at one Kentucky State Park. In fact, it may have you wondering just how pioneers reacted when they reached this same point in the river centuries before. At this point, the river, which is more than a hundred feet wide, plunges dramatically some 70 feet into a gorge surrounded by an even higher rock wall on one side and gigantic boulders and smaller rock walls on the other side.
Cumberland Falls has been a popular tourist attraction since the early 1900’s. Its size and the sheer volume of water earned it the nickname “Niagara of the South.” Today, thousands of people a day come to relish in the majesty of this amazing natural wonder. Right as the water begins to fall, you can stand near the edge, watching (and sometimes feeling) the mist rising from the floor of the gorge where the water ends its descent. At times the roar of the water can drown out the flurry of activity often whirling around you.
Located just west of Corbin, KY, Cumberland Falls State Park is one of the crowning jewels of the Kentucky State Park system. It is a full resort with the waterfall being the main attraction. Access to both the park and the falls are easy, but at times, parking near the falls can be a bit of a challenge as hundreds of people pack in there every hour at peak times.
One of the unique features of Cumberland Falls is the “moonbow.” While definitions of what that is exactly vary, the “moonbow” appears when there is a full moon and weather conditions are right. The park boasts the waterfall created “moonbow” as the only one of its kind in North America. The park at one time was even home to the “Moonbow” hotel.
Cumberland Falls is about a 90 minute drive up I-75 from Downtown Knoxville. Pine Mountain Resort Park, Big South Fork National Recreation Area and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park are other great places to visit in the area.