McMinnville charms with natural assets
A view of Mountain King Room at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn., shows some of the sights awaiting cave explorers.Contributed Photo by Cumberland Caverns
This part of the world is prized for its natural assets: lush forests, pristine lakes and streams and picturesque waterfall vistas.
McMinnville, in rural Warren County, Tenn., has all those outdoor treasures on full display. The views and lakes are a big part of why many people choose to live there.
"We have some of the best kayaking, trails and places to camp," said Norma Sterchi, who works for the Warren County Chamber of Commerce. "You don't have to drive very far at all to see all that, but we're also equal distance between Nashville and Chattanooga."
The area is known for its vast underground caverns. Recently, PBS signed on to broadcast weekly bluegrass music from a massive performance venue in Cumberland Caverns. The naturally formed rock walls provide beautiful acoustics and the cavern operators have installed seating and a huge crystal chandelier to add ambiance.
The community also is situated on three rivers: The Collins, Caney Fork and Rocky rivers all crisscross the area. They provide plenty of recreation, including boating and fishing. But over the years, the water also fed the soil and made the region fertile farmland. Today, that industry continues.
"We have the state's largest number of nurseries with about 235 certified nurseries in operation," Sterchi said.
The area draws its history to an old stagecoach route that connected western Tennessee to Chattanooga and points east.
Kristen Bobo, left, and Dava Lundquist, Park Interpretive Rangers at Rock Island State Park, check their lights before entering the cave. Kristen Bobo began a new career as a welder and cave gater ten years ago after finding endangered bats viciously killed in a cave she managed. She built this gate at Big Bone Cave State Natural Area near Spencer, Tenn. The large gate is intended to keep people from damaging historical and pre-historic artifacts in this cave and also the bat habitat it provides. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Larry McCormack)Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
AT A GLANCE
-- Population: 13,606
-- Best places to visit: Rock Island State Park, Cumberland Caverns
-- Biggest employers: Yorozu Corp., Bridgestone and Firestone tires and the Warren County school system
-- Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 73
-- Geographic features: Collins, Caney Fork and the Rocky rivers.
-- Date founded: 1807
-- Historic info: Originally established along a stagecoach route, the region traces its founding to Native American populations.
-- Most famous residents: Dotty West, a Grammy winning country singer who died in a car accident in 1991.
-- Unique traditions: Autumn Street Festival, first Saturday in October; barbecue cook-off, three days in August, Kansas City Barbecue sanctioned event.
-- Fun fact: A large live oak tree on U.S. 70 across from the hospital is reported to have existed during the time of the old stagecoach route. Pregnant women traveling the route would stop to have children there. Native Americans said whomever was born under the tree would have lifelong good luck.