Cummins Falls in Jackson County, Tennessee, is one of the most beautiful locations in all of Middle Tennessee.
Its beauty draws tens of thousands of people to the park each year, but it can also be a very dangerous place as witnessed last July when a flash flood roared through the gorge.
“It was almost the perfect storm,” said Park Manager Ray Cutcher. “It dropped about three inches of rain in a very short period of time. Eye witnesses at the bottom at the time said they looked up and there was a wall of water coming over the waterfall, and within minutes, water was surrounding them and they were trapped where they were.”
A total of 48 people were rescued that day, some of which by a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter that happened to be in the area.
The pilot hovered just feet above the rushing water in the narrow gorge and removed people trapped on boulders in midstream.
Two people drowned that day, including one woman who came on her own to help the rescue operation.
After the flood, Tennessee state parks strengthened its communication with the National Weather Service.
Tennessee Tech University may also help out with a warning system. A series of storm gauges along the river, upstream of the falls, which would alert park rangers of any sudden water rise.
Chief Ranger Shane Petty also stressed to News 2 that personal responsibility can play a big role as well.
“We have 56 state parks, and about all of them but one have some type of water. So, we want to encourage water recreation, but we also want to encourage the safety end of it along with preparation. Look at the weather before you come, think about it, talk to the ranger. Stop by the ranger station. Get advice about, ‘Hey, do you think it’s going to rain today? Are there some things we need to be prepared for, what are the safety issues?’ But this can happen anywhere in a Tennessee state park, and this is the kick-off of summer.”