It’s that time of year—when the mountain laurel and hillside rhododendron start blooming, the temperature starts rising, and the waterfalls pick up speed after a slow winter’s pace. People from all over flock to our little neck of the woods to lace up their hiking shoes and set out for an afternoon on the trails. And boy, is it worth the drive. From Buckeye Falls (the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi) to the lesser-known Lower Higgins Creek Falls, you would be hard-pressed to not be impressed with Northeast Tennessee’s variety of flowing falls.
While many of the beautiful falls in this area are open to the public, we went on to private property to learn more. Falls Gap Falls is the official geographical name of a waterfall located just off of Spivey Mountain Road. Many local people call these falls “Spivey Falls” but that’s actually a little further downstream located in Chandler Cove. It’s easy to confuse the two because Falls Gap Falls is not easily seen from the road and is located on private property…Paul and Evelyn Sutton’s private property.
Even though the name of the falls can’t seem to be definitively decided—Spivey Falls, Falls Gap Falls—there is one thing everyone can agree on: the unique history of this area is an interesting story to hear.
The Suttons own Spivey Falls cabin, and love to retell the history of their neck of the woods. Years ago, during the logging boom when Vanderbilt began to construct his ‘humble mountain getaway’ near Asheville (millions of visitors each year know it as The Biltmore Estate), there was a community at Falls Gap Falls. This little town in the mountains grew up around a gristmill built on Spivey Creek—a sawmill was added, then a store, then a church and numerous cabins. Soon, a small schoolhouse was built and Falls Gap then supplied necessary items for the surrounding residents dwelling in the coves and hollows.
Even before the community of Falls Gap began to build up, there was already an existing town up the road toward the North Carolina line. It is rumored that Lost Cove got its mysterious name when surveyors laying out the border between North Carolina and Tennessee couldn’t quite agree as to where the state line should be on Flat Top Mountain. Even though it is now officially in North Carolina, the name stuck—as it was “lost” along the border. Lost Cove became a logging community, with Chestnut trees a thick as 8 feet through and many other needed timbers. It was only accessible by rail through the Nolichucky Gorge and the then-CC&O (Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio) railroad built a siding at the bottom of Flat Top Mountain. Other than the railroad, there was no way to access Lost Cove except by primitive foot trails—which are still accessible today.
When the lumber industry crashed, CC&O sold out and the railroad no longer serviced Lost Cove. The people began to pack up and leave, leaving everything behind—furniture, clothes, stills. By 1957, the community was all but abandoned.
Today, the Suttons rent out Spivey Falls Cabin so folks can enjoy the same kind of natural seclusion that existed in Lost Cove. The Waterfall Cabin sits on the edge of a bluff and gives you an up-close-and-personal view of the 70’ falls. Now is the perfect time of year to visit Northeast Tennessee, and the perfect time to get lost in nature’s majestic beauty.