Tennessee's Rock Island State Park is a touch of exotic nature that's close to home.


Look at these waterfalls. Not just one but a whole cliffside of them spray a roaring symphony of rushing water down into the placid pools below.

If you didn't know better, you might guess this photograph was taken at a little-known Eden in some faraway Cowabunga-land. Well, you'd be half right. This place happens to be Rock Island State Park, and it is a little-known Eden. But it's in Middle Tennessee, and it doesn't require airfare and accommodations that you'd have to take out a second mortgage to finance.

This park and several others in the area are a half-day's drive or less from most of the Middle South. And lodging? Rock Island has several beautiful cabins available for about $115 a night on weekends, $95 weekdays. They're nothing fancy on the inside, but they have three bedrooms and two baths, fully equipped kitchens, a nice living area, and all the comforts of home. Call (931) 686-2471.

Now, this is not Fantasy Island, and no one is going to bring you beverages with those little umbrellas in them. But the feeling of getting away from it all is quite genuine. Considering price, convenience, and comfort level, this beats Cowabunga by a long machete.

Other parks to pick: Rock Island isn't the only place with lots of natural beauty. Edgar Evins State Park sits tucked into the woodsy hills around Center Hill Lake near Smithville. Burgess and Fancher Falls are spectacular sights, especially after a thunderstorm. Cabins ($75 per night weekends) and campsites are available; call 1-800-250-8619.

Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park, east of Pikeville, is the largest one in the state and a Southern Living Readers' Choice Awards 2000 winner. A dramatic 256-foot waterfall gives the park its name. The park has a comfortable 144-room lodge (rooms are $75-$180 weekends) and cabins and villas ($105 and $145, respectively), in addition to campsites. Call 1-800-250-8610 for cabins or the inn, or visit www.tnstateparks.com .

Another nice place to stay nearby is Fall Creek Falls Bed & Breakfast (423) 881-5494 (rooms are $89-$140). Owners Rita and Doug Pruett give personal attention to their visitors, making them feel at ease in their comfortable home surrounded by scenery that's like no other place in Tennessee.

For more information: Call the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association at 1-800-868-7237, or visit www.uppercumberland.org .

This article is from the June 2001 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.