25 Oct Find The Hidden Discoveries Of Real. Wild. Unicoi County.
Only a handful of county natives have explored the 186 square miles of Unicoi County like David Ramsey. He’s a county native whose family roots pre-date the Civil War.
David Ramsey was the lightening rod that created Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park.
Raised fishing, backpacking, and taking photos throughout nearly every inch of this beautiful county. He was the lightening rod of a $40 million fundraising effort that resulted in the creation of today’s Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park. A noted author, photographer, and fishing guide, we asked David for a private peek into his favorite spots and secret honey holes of the county. It’s perfect timing for a day trip or a weekend outing to capture the last of the fall colors.
Rocky Fork Is Less Than Half The Beauty
“A lot of people forget that the tract of land where Lamar Alexander State Park now sits is just 2,000 acres of a 10,000-acre tract,” David explains. “The rest is a feast for sore eyes. Now part of the Cherokee National Forest, there are 30 miles of old logging roads that are still in good shape and perfect for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching and a lot more. At the peak, the vistas are amazing. On a clear day, you can look to the West and see the Smoky Mountains and look down into Greene and Washington counties. It’s one of my favorites.
What About A 4-Wheel Excursion?
One of the four-wheel treks near Bumpas Cove. Image courtesy of Adam Campbell.
“Ever heard of Little Mountain Road in Scioto (pronounced Si-O-thee)? Take the Unicoi Exit and go on Highway 107, then turn on Scioto Road. About a half-mile up you will see a sign for Little Mountain Road. You can mountain bike or take a four-wheel drive up about five miles, then you can hike some more. It would be a great spot for spending time and enjoying fall colors,” says Ramsey.
“Another good place is Rich Mountain Road off Bumpas Cove Road in the county. It’s about five miles of road that’s good for 4-Wheel drive and then you can walk or take your mountain bike up about another five miles. It’s a good one.”
How About Some Untold History?
It’s known as the great Limestone Cove Tragedy.
“Have you heard of Bell Cemetery on your way to Limestone Cove? There is a historic marker along Highway 107 where a detachment of Confederate cavalry found some Union boys who were hiding out on their way to join the Union army in Kentucky. They massacred the Union boys, and they are all buried up there,” David says.
The original CCC Team that built Camp Cordell Hull in Limestone Cove, TN.
“Keep going toward Limestone Cove and you will find a marker for the Cordell Hull CCC Camp. Created by FDR during the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corp gave jobs to men 17 to 28-years old. The Cordell Hull Camp was built by CCC workers who then did restoration and public works jobs across Northeast Tennessee, like the Pinnacle Fire Tower that is a hiking destination in the county today.”
Red Fork Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Unicoi County.
“Since we are talking about the Limestone Cove area, let’s talk about Red Fork Falls,” David says. “This is a short, but difficult hike with steep and slippery terrain as you approach the falls. To get there, take I-26, and take the Unicoi exit. Go 0.08 miles to Route 107, turn left, and drive another 7.6 miles. Turn right on Unaka Mountain Road and continue 0.7 miles to a gravel road. The path to the falls lies 100 feet straight ahead. Wear good hiking shoes and be careful, but it’s worth the effort to get there.”
Where Is The Best View?
“Most have heard about Beauty Spot, so let me share another one that is extraordinary,” says Ramsey. “It’s called Indian Grave Gap. It’s accessible by mountain bike or hiking, and it’s on the way to Beauty Spot. Go up Rock Creek Road from North Main Street and go past Rock Creek Park to where the pavement ends. Go left and up go up to Beauty Spot, but if you bear to the right, you are headed to North Carolina. Go down about a half-mile, there are no markers, but there is a grassy spot that you can pull off and hike to a wonderful view that is one of the best in the county.”
Where Are The Honey Holes For Fishing?
“Now, I’m a fishing guide so I am not about to tell up exactly where my honey holes are. BUT there are some sweet spots along Spivey Creek. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocks the creek, and there are some nice trout in there. Here is another hint. Both North and South Indian Creek are often overlooked by fishermen not familiar with the county. Enough said.”
Learn More About David Ramsey
David Ramsey will always love Real. Wild. Unicoi County. Learn more about David’s story in an article published in Garden & Gun. During working hours, you will likely find him managing the Mahoney’s Outfitters store in Johnson City.
He has authored a book about his journey as a leader in protecting Rocky Fork and helping to make it one of Tennessee’s newest state parks and includes a wealth of photos as well as individual photos that you might enjoy, learn more at his website.