Monday, September 24, 2012

Cumberland Plateau Day of Exploration--Nemo Bridge and Tunnel and Mill Creek Falls

Day of Exploring the Cumberland Plateau
Dana & Kenny Koogler 
Sat. Sept. 22, 2012

Pictures are here beginning with frame 290.

    Kenny & I woke up on Saturday and neither of us was interested in doing what we'd planned.  We'd planned on taking the kayaks and heading back to do some off trail exploring in the Smokies.   It just didn't sound fun for some reason today.  We opted instead to pack a picnic and load up and go for a day of "Wandering like the Hebrew Children in the Wilderness".  So off we went in the direction of Morgan County.

    We found the abandoned railroad tunnel at Nemo Bridge and drove through it.
It was awesomely fun and spooky.  The current, modern tunnel and tracks are still in use and right by the old ones.    The old tunnel is flooded most of the way and was filled with 2 or 3 feet of water.   I'd say its about 1/2 mile long.  It took longer to drive through it the first time because we were being careful. We did not know what the floor of the flooded parts would be like as far as objects, holes, and risk of popping a tire.  The water was up to the running boards at times!  We stopped in the middle and turned off the lights and experienced total darkness.  It was a neat experience. We spent some time just four-wheeling and seeing where we could get that jeep to go on those old 4x4 trails.

Abandoned Nemo Railroad tunnel

Here is a video of what it was like driving through the tunnel. Other than being there yourself this is the best way to experience it.

     We headed to the Nemo Bridge Picnic area and ate lunch and relaxed.  It was a perfect day. Sunny and blue skies with puffy clouds. Cool temperatures.  The leaves on the trees just beginning to change colors and float down.  We saw very few people at the picnic area.   Once we finished lunch we strolled over to the river to check out the swimming hole and rope swings and to walk on the old bridge to enjoy the views of the river from there.    It is a rusty old structure with lots of character constructed in 1929 and still standing.  A steel works in Greenville, SC put it together!   The view of the Emory River from the deck of the old bridge span was   amazing.  It flowed by deep and green with ripples of white in the distance.  Bright yellow patches of flowers could be seen along the river banks.   Too cool for swimming today.  Kenny pointed out that it did not take much of a dip in the temperatures for folks to lose interest in swimming.

View of the Emory River from Nemo Bridge.

Nemo Bridge has been replaced by a modern concrete structure, but the old bridge still stands for foot traffic.

Swimming Hole with no one interested in swimming today.  We'll bring a picnic back and go swimming next season Lord willing.

     We headed out to hunt up some of the many fire towers in the general area.  We had a falling out with " Babala"  my erratic TomTom system.  She was supposed to be leading us to the Catoosa Fire Tower about 21 miles away from the Nemo Bridge.  All was going according to plan until we refused to turn into someone's drive way at their trailer.
So instead of being 15 miles away we were now told it was 40 miles away!
I had a few choice words for her and switched to plan B.   I entered the coordinates for Mill Creek Falls changing the game on Ole Girl.  We'd hunted for it before unsuccessfully and according to the GPS it was only 11 miles from our current position.  IF you can believe anything you're told at this point.   We opted for attempt #2 at finding Mill Creek Falls.    I did get to see some New York Asters along the Catoosa Road because of our wandering.


New York Asters and a beautiful butterfly. Some of my favorite Fall flowers!

     We headed back through Morgan County and things began to look familiar to me.
The drive was gorgeous the whole way.    I remember us passing a sign for Ruppe Road and saying  we were getting close!  Kenny started recalling things too and we pulled up at this house we'd been at before on our last try at finding Mill Creek Falls.   I had gone up and knocked on the doors both back and front without any luck. No one home.
I knocked on the front door this time and a man answered. I introduced myself and told him we were interested in viewing the falls and would that be OK?  He was agreeable and told us how to get to the falls either to either the base or the top.  I thanked him and we headed out along the creek.   I met his grandsons there on the porch with him and they were both very nice high school fellows.

    We quickly arrived at the base of the thirty foot high Mill Creek Falls. What a place!
It was on a beautiful stream with a pretty rock outcrop and cliffs on the sides. What a great swimming hole it looked like.  It appeared deep and blue green.   Black alder bushes grew around the rim of the pool.   We hugged each other in congratulations at having finally found it!  

Mill Creek Falls is beautiful but is on private property. Ask permission of the landowner before visiting and please do not litter. 

     We spoke again with Jack's grandsons Isaac and Jared on the way back out.  They were heading up to the falls to visit.   We stopped back at the house and visited for a short time with Jack and I introduced Kenny to him.   What a pleasant fellow!  He knew all sorts of interesting history about the area!

     We headed out toward home.  Morgan County........ is one of those places you frequently encounter "You cain't git thar from hyere." and getting IN to the county is easier than getting OUT of the county.   If I'm lyin' I'm dyin.   We had the GPS take us some snarled up way out of that place and the sight of masses of kudzu draped cliffs, railroad tracks, bridges above us............ that looks like a main road........ but why can't we get to it?   We passed through Camp Austin and Babala wanted us to take the cut through 4x4 road through Camp Austin today to get home!  I loved that old road, but today I did not have time for this so we turned it down.

        We finally just went on letting the GPS lead the way as long as she avoided dirt tracks.  I guessed we'd emerge somewhere along Hwy 70 in Roane County.  Eventually we did come out in Harriman in a residential area in the middle of a funeral procession!
We extricated ourselves from that mess and Kenny suggested he knew a good place for a view and a fire tower into the deal!  He said he'd take me there for an icecream cone as a snack at McDonald's.  So that's what we did.

        We drove down to Rockwood and Mt. Roosevelt after our snack break at McDonald's.    He had been wanting me to see this spot anyway for a couple reasons.
One was that he had put up a cell tower there and a communications building on the site.
Another reason was that a friend of ours took us up onto a mountain top with a fire tower and a view years earlier.  Yet he did not think this was the same place. He was correct!
It was a different spot.  Mt. Roosevelt is a low mountain above Rockwood with Hwy 27 at its base and I-40 above it.  We both recalled the fire tower being in a different spot and in far worse shape than this one with lots more litter.    The view was spectacular today and the city or someone has put three or four picnic tables up there for public enjoyment.
The fire tower is in bad shape with about six steps missing along its entire climb to the cab.  Someone or something has set fire to the steps and they are burned badly.  The cab has a gaping hole in it and one of the decks on the climb up is missing a section.  The fence around it has been cut real bad.  Graffitti is painted on some of the structures.

    We found that there is a residence behind a fence up there on the mountain right behind the fire tower!  Old junked cars and trash make it not too hospitable when peeping back through the fence at the home.  Not a place I'd want to linger.

Mt. Roosevelt Fire Tower

View from Mt. Roosevelt

I found a piece of gnarly X-rated info spray painted on one of the fire tower stanchions.   I do hate graffitti
tags, but especially the explicit kind.  Those of you who feel the need to leave your mark on the world with graffitti are University of Iggnunce Grads. You are far less important than you think. Always remember..
Nature is supremely indifferent to whether we live or die.



  1. We love Morgan County, so much so we moved here when we retired. I've driven through the Nemo tunnel many times, but not in the past 10 years. The roadbed has deteriorated badly and I didn't want to risk it, even in my 4x4 truck. And Morgan County is not kind to GPS units. Our Garmin doesn't know its way around here, either. That's a nice Monarch on the New York asters, or what we call Michaelmas Daisies. Great photographs, by the way. Jim

    1. Thanks so much Jim! I love it that you moved to Morgan Co. It is a funny, strange, wonderful, beautiful place to visit or to live! That's why we keep going back! Have you ever visited Four Mile Creek Falls? We thought of going to see that the other day, but decided on new things rather than do overs.

    2. No, is that down by the Cumberland County line? I don't do as much hiking as I once did; age and such are catching up with me. We must have 1,000 waterfalls in Morgan, Scott, and Fentress Counties and I've been to a bunch of them over the years. Here are a few that I've used on the blog:

    3. Four Mile Creek Falls is over near Deer Lodge. It's a nice 60 footer and after all the rain we've had it would have been a good time to see it.

  2. OMG that old railroad tunnel was spooky; I loved the view as you were coming out of the tunnel. Sounds like you two had quite an adventure that day.

    1. It was a fun day. It's kinda fun flying by the seat of your pants! LOL :-D


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