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New trail at Old Stone Fort offers challenges

Story and photo  by Susan Campbell, Thunder Radio

Chumbley Woods Trail, the newest in Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park, opened earlier this year.
The trail is 1.62 miles roundtrip, and was named after the property’s prior owner John Chumbley. In addition, old maps refer to the area as Chumbley Woods, according to Park Manager Keith Wimberley. It is located on a largely undeveloped section of the park off Powers Bridge Road.

“The trail drops down to the river gorge,” said Friends of Old Stone Fort Secretary Joan Hartvigsen. “When the trail reaches the Little Duck River it begins a half-mile loop that runs from the Forks of the River area (across from the former golf course) to follow the Little Duck River and shadows the Backbone Ridge Trail cliff line. The Friends are very excited about this trail. It opens up a beautiful area of the park which was inaccessible prior to building the trail. This shady trail passes through a forest of old growth trees. The trees are magnificent.”

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The only strenuous section of the trail is the one-quarter-mile section coming back out of the river valley, according to Wimberly.

Future plans for park development include possible spur trails off the main Chumbley Woods Trail, campground renovation, and a new bridge to access the campground through the park, according to Wimberley.

“Please remind everyone what a treasure we have in the park right here in Manchester,” he said. “The park’s namesake, the Old Stone Fort, is a rare 2000-year-old Native American ceremonial mound site surrounded by two beautiful rivers. The Duck River has been recognized by National Geographic Magazine as one of the five most biodiverse rivers in the entire world. Visitors should be mindful of this and help us to protect both when they come to visit. Stay on designated trails only.”

The Chumbley Woods trailhead and parking lot are located on the right approximately one-half mile down Powers Bridge Road from behind Westwood Middle School. It is currently open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

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Several old growth trees, including this magnificent Beech, can be found in the new Chumbley Woods Trail in Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park.


In addition to the new Chumbley Woods Trail, hikers can enjoy the following trails in the park:
Forks of the River: 0.30 mile and rated easy. This is a pleasant walk off the Enclosure Trail to where the Big Duck River and the Little Duck River meet to form the Duck River.
Moat Trail: 0.45 mile and rated easy. Also known as the Old River Channel Trail, this trail connects to the Forks of the River Trail and the Enclosure Trail. The trail traverses an abandoned river channel below the western wall of the Old Stone Fort.
Garrison Road Trail: 0.80 mile and rated moderate. This trailhead is also behind the camper check-in building. The name refers to a fort from the very early 1800s called Purdie’s Garrison. The road served as a route of the Nickajack Trace as it ran from the Purdie’s Garrison to the area of the Old Stone Fort. You will also walk a short stretch on the earliest paved section of Highway 41, now lost in the woods. This route returns across a pleasant area on higher ground.
Nature Trail: 0.85 mile and rated easy. Located behind by the camper check-in station, this trail offers a pleasant walk through the woods and returns through the back end of the campground. A short portion passes near the Duck River.

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Backbone Trail : 1.25 miles and rated moderate to strenuous. Also known as the Little Duck River Loop Trail, this is an extension of the main interpretive path. Backbone Ridge is a remarkable erosional feature that separates the long-abandoned channel from the current channel of the Little Duck River. The ridge may have had its own ceremonial significance to the enclosure builders.
Enclosure Trail: 1.40 miles and rated easy to moderate. Accessed behind the stone museum building, the trail has a set of 12 interpretive signs to help explain the enclosure site along the way. The path is a loop that follows the perimeter of the fort, traveling along the deep gorges cut by the rivers on either side of the site. It first goes between the two pedestal mounds flanking an entrance to the enclosure. The entrance was designed to face the exact spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. Step Falls, Blue Hole Falls, and Big Falls can be viewed from the trail, as well as remnants of an old paper mill foundation. Please use caution by the cliff area.
The Old Stone Fort was built during the Middle Woodland Period, 1,500-2,000 years ago. Native Americans used this area continuously for about 500 years, eventually leaving it abandoned. By the time European settlers arrived, it was unclear of what the area had been used for which resulted in it being misnamed as a fort. In 1966, the state of Tennessee purchased 400 acres of the Chumbley estate as the core of what is now Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park. To learn more or see a list of activities, visit

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