Short Springs State Natural Area

Today, I hiked at the teenage Short Springs State Natural Area between Tullahoma and Manchester. The 420 acre natural area is managed by the City of Tullahoma, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Tennessee’s division of Natural Areas. Tullahoma’s water came from here once upon a time before the Normandy Dam project. I haven’t found any other history on the area. Check out the Trail and Topo Map.

Distance: 3.6 miles, mesh trail system
Total Elevation Climb: 260 feet, mainly minor ups and downs
Trail type: varies from single track dirt and rock to old road bed
Temperature: upper 60s, sunshine and clear, blue skies
Time: 2.5 hours, 1 hour of stops
Significant features: waterfalls!!!

First off, the turn off of Highway 55 is not marked at all, so here’s the link for your Google Maps and GPS tinkering. And for directions directly to the parking lot from wherever you are click here.

Once there, I found an extremely well developed system of trails. First, I took the Busby Falls loop which runs down to the falls on Bobo Creek. I crossed the creek, but didn’t go much further. It looked like they were building a trail on the other side (orange flagging tape), but there weren’t any blazes. It’s a pretty area and wasn’t busy at all (great for some solitude). The Busby Falls Loop reconnects with the Machine Falls Loop.

Machine Falls is the main attraction in my opinion. It takes a little rock hopping to get back to it from the trail. It’s worth it. As I got closer, I could see water seeping from between the rocks on my right. A few more steps and I was face to face with it. The falls are about 60 feet tall and almost as wide. I wandered around on the falls for about 30 minutes as there were a number of easy climbs around it. I was in awe of the sheer power needed to create this small wonder. It made me feel really small.

Back on the Machine Falls Loop, (I bypassed the Wildflower Loop since I photographed the only one I had seen thus far) I trekked until I got to the Adams Falls Loop. Note that on the published map, this is a there and back. it just says to me the trail system is still being developed. From the trail, Adams Falls takes some getting to. Since there wasn’t a soul around, I elected not to go bouldering over to it. I was disappointed because I’m sure I missed a treat. I’ll take a hiking partner with me next time.

I got back on the Machine Falls Loop which brought me around to the trail head by Short Springs Road. I’ll rate this a 3.5 out of 5 on the Bryan scale. I’ll definitely remember this place.

Download the Google Earth track

5 replies on “Short Springs State Natural Area”

  1. I have hiked this area since I discovered it in the mid-eighties – when I was in my twenties. I grew up in Tullahoma, and when I was shown Machine “Gun” Falls (as we fondly referred to it back in the day) and Bobo Creek I could not believe this remarkable place was literally at my ‘back door’. I was fortunate to have been taken to the falls the first time by people who knew the area extremely well, so I was shown several places “off the path” that remain almost sacred to me. I took my husband there for the first time today, and he was equally impressed. The only ‘official’ trails I use are the one to the falls, then the Wildflower Loop to get to the creek bed. I’ve probably hiked the creek bed fifty times. Beginning where the Wildflower Loop doubles back, I/we veer off the trail towards the creek bed and follow it, rock and tree root hopping to a set of falls before Bugby Falls that I don’t know the name of where you have to scale up the right side of the falls. There are so many unique sections of Bobo Creek that you miss if you don’t take this route. Just above this set of falls is a wide and very shallow section of the creek where it flows over nearly flat slate/shale (or whatever that flat black rock is) for about 100 feet where my friends and I used to go to lay out in the sun. In the eighties we ALWAYS had the area completely to ourselves. Those are wonderful memories. I continue to follow the creek bed from this flat section all the way up to Short Springs Road, walking on the road back to the car. Usually I’ve been able to do this without getting my feet wet, but yesterday, at the very end, where I had to get back across the creek to get to the road, I had to step into a shallow section of the creek to cross. My husband’s stride is longer, so he was able to get across on rocks without stepping into the creek. At the place where the creek meets with what used to be banked off area of the water treatment plant there is a beautiful scene where the creek flows through some moss-covered rocks; you won’t see this if you don’t get off the trail and trek up the creek bed. But watch for snakes if you’re thinking of going this creek bed route. For the first time in all the years I’ve trekked through this creek bed, we saw a copperhead yesterday. It was more fearful of us (I’m told) than we were it, but it was still an alarming moment. Thanks Wildrman Bryan, for sharing your comments about this special place online.

  2. I am a frequent visitor to the Short Springs area since I live here and it is so close. I am there almost daily walking. I have seen a large number of a species of snake I believe to be the Northern Copperhead, however I am still unsure. I usually give this specific snake a lot of space as I know is smart to do. Since my color vision is lacking, I can only go by a previous encounter I had when mountain biking at AEDC where one was identified to me. I am just wondering if I am correctly identifying this snake or if I could be mistaken.

  3. I am a Member of the Friends group and of TN Trails. My wife, Pat, and I have hiked and helped work these trails since 1990. Good current discriptions are on the Tennessee State website and cloudhiking,com
    The wild flower loop in the bottom is one of the best spring veiwing areas in Middle Tenbessee.

Comments are closed.