The Michigan-based Stearnes Coal and Lumber Company acquired forested land in Pickett and Fentress Counties in 1910 and used the land until 1933, when the company deeded the property to the State of Tennessee. On December 13, 1933, Tennessee Governor Hill McAllister declared the land a state forest. The Tennessee state forester in the Department of Agriculture administered the land until 1937, when it was transferred to the Division of Forestry in the Department of Conservation. The land eventually became Pickett State Rustic Park, administered by the Division of State Parks.
In 1921 a national conference for the establishment of state parks identified Tennessee as one of twenty-eight states with no state parks. Tennessee established a State Park and Forestry Commission in 1925, but it was not until the federal government began promoting land use planning during the depression that the movement to acquire land and construct state parks gained substantial support in Tennessee. Federal funding and New Deal work programs provided the means to complete the projects.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 1471 organized at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, in 1933, before moving first to Putnam County and then settling in Pickett County in 1934. There, they constructed a dam and a twelve-acre lake, twenty-two miles of roads, telephone lines, trails, a lodge, picnic areas, cabins, and other facilities for the new Pickett Forest State Park (the area was also known as Pickett Forest Recreation Area). The CCC also built fire towers and ranger stations in the forested areas of Pickett. The National Park Service designed park buildings and structures to utilize native materials and fit in with the local landscape, providing for functionally and aesthetically related components that have remained easily accessible to park visitors.
A 1937 U.S. Department of Interior master plan for Pickett Forest State Park shows picnic areas, auto and trailer camps, groups of cabins, trails, comfort stations, and shelters, many of which still exist. Historic resources (ca. 1934-42) are constructed of rock faced coursed stone with wood trim. They are gable-roofed and one story in height. Many buildings have large, impressive stone fireplaces.
Situated near the Tennessee-Kentucky state border, the park and forest contain close to twelve thousand acres of reforested land. Pine growth occurs on the plateau, and hemlock and birches predominate in the ravines of the park. Rock formations, natural bridges, and caves can be found throughout the area.
Development of the park facilities continued into the late 1930s, then ceased until the 1950s, when additional cabins and the superintendent’s residence were erected. In 1949 approximately one thousand acres of the land were transferred to the Division of the State Parks in the Department of Conservation. Today, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation administers Pickett State Rustic Park.