The largest and most significant portion of the South Cumberland State Recreation Area is the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. Located on the Cumberland Plateau in Grundy County, Savage Gulf contains approximately 11,500 acres, and its wide ecological diversity has earned it National Natural Landmark status. One-third of the almost 2,300 native plant species identified in Tennessee grow in this natural area. One section of the park contains 500 acres of old growth hardwoods, a rarity in the eastern United States.
The park’s name refers, first, to the Savage family who once owned part of the land and, second, to one of the primary gorges that branches out from the headwaters of the Collins River. Savage Gulf has a visitor’s center, where a path leads to the Great Stone Door, a 150-foot-long natural crevice that leads to an awe-inspiring view of “a vast panorama of rolling mountains and deep gorges, a true wilderness reaching all the way to the horizon.” (1) The area also has fifty miles of trails, including the famed Big Creek Trail.