The loneliest park in Tennessee

Tennessee is a beautiful state with amazing state parks. Parks that range from high mountain peaks to the Mississippi delta, from battle fields to Native American burial grounds, from gorgeous blue lakes to diverse river systems. There’s just so much beauty and variety. So, I’ve made it a goal of mine to visit every state park in Tennessee in 2018. Below is my story of my adventure at one park.

The year was 1973 and things were really looking up for a bit of land in Northwest Tennessee. A state park had been created around a huge cypress tree, one that people came from miles around to look at. They named the park, creativity, Big Cypress Tree State Park.

The tree was the oldest and largest bald cypress tree in the United States and the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. The tree was 175 feet tall, taller than any other tree in that bottomland forest. The circumference at the base was 40 feet, while the diameter measured thirteen feet. It was believed to be 1,350 years old and was named the Tennessee Titian.

Then, in July of 1976, tragedy struck. A severe thunderstorm storm blew in and a lightning bolt struck the tree, killing it. That great, majestic tree was gone. The park, though, remained.

Big Cypress Tree State Park today offers a playground, ball field, picnic shelter, and hiking trails. Most of all it offers peace and solitude. It’s located near the Middle Fork Obion River and much of the park is floodplain. The park is near, well, nothing really. Buried deep in farmland, you really have to know where you’re going to find it.

We visited the park on a gray, early spring day. There was only one other car in the parking lot and all was quiet as we got out and stretched after the long drive through country roads. We made a quick stop at the playground and then headed towards the hiking trail. A man walking two dogs passed us with a nod and headed to his car. We were now alone in the park.

The trail passed by an old cabin and continued toward a boardwalk. Bright yellow daffodils filled the hillside, adding pops of color to what otherwise was all grays and browns. A lone tree frog chirped in the distance; a brave soul letting us know that, despite the chill and wind, spring was on its way.

The boardwalk wound over a bottomland forest. Everything was wet and many trees were standing in water. None, though, were cypress trees. We passed by an old sign, pointing to the Big Cypress Tree. It was part of a two mile long trail that once led visitors to a place where they could observe the tree. The trail was submerged under water, but there was no reason to take it anyway because it now led to nothing.

We continued on the boardwalk and soon came to a set of stairs that led down to connect with the river access trail. But it was the end of the line for us. Spring rains had caused the river to flood and water was still everywhere in that low lying area. A bit discouraged, we turned around and headed back.

On the way back we came upon something that we hadn’t noticed on the way out. A new cypress tree had been planted next to the boardwalk. It was small, nothing more than a twig really, but it was there. Despite the isolation and loneliness and tragic story behind the park, this gave hope. A tiny bit of hope. We stood in silence listening to that lone tree frog and last season’s leaves rattling in the breeze and thought of how maybe one day, way in the future, this park would once again be filled with people marveling at a great big cypress tree.

For more information about this park including directions on how to get there, click here.

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