Colditz Cove Class II Natural-Scientific State Natural Area

Photograph of Colditz Cove Natural Area by David Pineros

Colditz Cove is a 165-acre natural area located approximately two miles east of Allardt in Fentress County. Its most impressive feature is Northrup Falls. This is one of Tennessee’s most stunning waterfalls plunging more than 60 feet over a protruding rock ledge into a scenic, narrow, gorge along Big Branch Creek. The waterfall is named for the family who settled here and operated a mill above the falls in the 1800s. These high cliffs and “rock houses” (shallow, open cave-like structures) at the falls and along the creek gorge were once used by cliff-dwelling Woodland Indians over 3,000 years ago. They primarily used these shelters during hunting season.

The dry ridges above the falls support a mixed oak-hickory forest dominated by white oak with Virginia pine scattered throughout. On the more xeric southwest bluff, oaks, hemlock, Virginia and short leaf pine are common with a shrub layer of mountain laurel underneath. Below the falls along Big Branch Creek, large hemlocks and white pines dominate the forest canopy and probably are more than 200 years old. Beneath these giant trees, thickets of rhododendron form along the creek, providing important habitat for riparian plant and animal species. The spray field from the falls creates a unique habitat on the rock ledges underneath and in the vicinity of the falls. Several species of ferns, sedges, rushes, and plants like grass-of-parnassus and alumroot are associated with this waterfall-gorge habitat.

Colditz Cove is also home to several, relatively rare animals including the Black Mountain dusky salamander (Desmognathus welteri), the woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis), the smoky shrew (Sorex fumeus), the pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi), and the southeastern shrew (Sorex longirostris).

Site Management

Pickett State Park, 4605 Pickett Park Highway, Jamestown, TN 38556, phone (931) 879-5821; Division of Natural Areas – East TN Office, 3711 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921, phone (865) 594-5601; Division of Natural Areas, William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 2nd Floor, Nashville, TN 37243, phone (615) 532-0431.

Public Access

Open to the Public - Full Access
Parking. Hiking trails. Passive recreation activities are allowed from sunrise to sunset. Pets must be leashed at all times.

Parking: Yes

Trail: Yes

Dogs on leash: Yes

Hunting: No

Fishing: No

Camping: No


From I-40 near Crossville, Tennessee, take Highway 127 north toward Jamestown. Before getting to Jamestown, turn right on State Route 296 east, toward the town of Allardt. In Allardt, take State Route 52 east. Just outside of town, but still within a residential area, turn right on Northrup Falls Road (County Road 1636). The sign for Colditz Cove State Natural Area is on the right about one mile down Northrup Falls Road.

Details & Map

  • Map to Colditz Cove
  • Owned by the State of Tennessee
  • Grimsley & Burrville 7.5-minute quadrangles
  • Cumberland Plateau Physiographic Province
  • Designated in 1984