Back in 2016, The Land Trust for Tennessee had a record year: over 18,400 acres protected through 36 projects across the state. Needless to say, we were busy.
A blistering work pace meant some projects weren’t shared with others in the way we like to celebrate the commitment made by Tennesseans to protect their land. Dog Cove was one of the many conservation successes in 2016 and played an important role that year in connecting forests and wildlife habitat. Since then, the landowner decided to once again partner with The Land Trust and TN Department of Environment & Conservation (“TDEC”) to protect the last remaining portion of the property, adding its historic homestead to Tennessee’s public lands.
Here is the story of how the community of White County and its visitors can now discover and experience this beautiful, historic land.
Home to History & Nature
Located less than an hour’s drive north of Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tom Lee’s land in Dog Cove has been in his family for over 150 years. “I have records of taxes paid on the property dating back to the mid-1800s,” said Tom. “Before the Coles came,” of whom Tom is a descendant, “the Fraziers lived there, and there are a couple of graves above the homestead believed to be the Frazier family.”
Tom’s grandfather was born along Lost Creek in 1901 and grew up to become a sawyer, building saw mills for a living. Throughout the years, the family continued to predominantly farm cut timber. As Tom recalls with both great respect and a little amusement, “This was a time when timber was the only way to make money. Buying screens for the kitchen was a big deal!”
Aside from a rich family history that could provide endless stories around a campfire, Dog Cove is also located in one of the most biologically diverse regions in the southeastern United States – the South Cumberland region. The cove is known for its appearing and disappearing creeks and lies just north of Lost Creek Natural Area, supplying the water that creates Lost Creek Falls.¹
Dog Cove is also adjacent to Virgin Falls State Natural Area and Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area and expands the connectivity of forests and wildlife habitat for Fall Creek Falls State Park. With the protected land in the area, it would be possible to hike from Lost Creek over to Virgin Falls or down to Fall Creek Falls without ever leaving public land (however at this point no trails currently connect the areas).²
A Gift to the Community
In 2014, Park Manager Stuart Carroll discovered that Tom was interested in selling 680 acres in Dog Cove. Having partnered with The Land Trust for over a decade, Stuart suggested The Land Trust reach out to both the landowner and Brock Hill, Deputy Commissioner of TDEC’s Bureau of Parks & Conservation, to see if conserving the land was possible.
Tom saw the opportunity for his family land to be looked after for generations to come. “There was always somebody to take care of this place,” said Tom, who believed that TDEC would be a great fit as the land’s new caretaker. The Land Trust then partnered to facilitate the project, securing and leveraging private funding from the Open Space Institute to assist the state’s purchase of Dog Cove. Conservation success was celebrated in 2016 when Dog Cove officially transferred to Tennessee State Parks.
In 2018, Tom decided to protect the final piece of Dog Cove – the 4.88-acre homestead known to the family as Camp Wallace. As of October 2018, The Land Trust is the temporary holder of the property as it prepares to transfer it to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
“There are several things that make Dog Cove unique. It is a true cove and is part of the larger Lost Creek Cove. The creek appears then disappears as people wander across the cove floor. With numerous caves, sinks, seeps, creeks, bluffs, and timber stands, this area also contains tremendous scenic and biological diversity,” explains Stuart, who manages Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Lost Creek State Natural Area, and Dog Cove.
Tom is grateful that his family land will be well looked after for years to come for the community’s benefit. “Growing up, we always moved around but the homestead was always there. It’s the only place I could ever call ‘home’. It means a lot to me – still does.”
Your generosity supports projects like Dog Cove and our commitment to forever protect these irreplaceable landscapes. Please consider a gift to support conservation in both our communities and wild, open spaces across Tennessee.
Did you know? The Land Trust has partnered with the State of Tennessee to protect over 19,300 acres.
Photos courtesy of Chuck Sutherland
Visiting Dog Cove:
• Dog Cove is open to the public during daylight only and closes at night.
• Location: 6747 Lost Creek Road, Sparta, TN 38583
• Public parking is available on the right as you cross the bridge or in front of the Beecher Wallace homestead.
• Approximately eight miles of trails are available for use.
¹,² “Lost Creek State Natural Area”, TN Department of Environment & Conservation