The Cumberland Trail soon will become six miles longer, and will connect the park to lands managed by the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy.
Gregory Vickrey, North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy's executive director, and W.A. Bryan Patten finalized the significant land deal on Walden's Ridge to protect nearly six miles of frontage along North Chickamauga Creek and provide a prime corridor to lengthen the state's Cumberland Trail.
The agreement allows for the conservancy's immediate transfer of ownership to the state, and the 194 acres will be managed by the State Parks Division of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Patten, who inherited part of the land in the transfer from his father, Z. Cartter Patten Jr., said his father "would be thrilled beyond imagine."
"My dad would be so tickled to know that his land is going to be a state park," Patten said. "It's a big deal."
The elder Patten was a noted environmentalist, local historian and longtime state legislator. Bryan Patten is a financial analyst and developer.
The corridor -- 200 feet wide or more through six miles of gorge terrain -- is filled with massive hemlock, rock formations and large-flowered skullcap, an endangered species.
The headwaters of North Chickamauga Creek are where the new corridor begins near Old Anderson Pike on Walden's Ridge.
A large spread of acreage near Old Anderson Pike is ideally suited for trail head parking and potential camping, said Vickrey.
The property also includes four lookout points high above the creek, an uncataloged number of waterfalls and a spectacular gorge viewshed at Raven Point.
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy intends to inventory the entire corridor this summer as part of a broader comprehensive effort to catalog the entire watershed.
Cumberland Trail State Park Manager Bob Fulcher called the acquisition a wonderful addition to the park and trail.
"This is the upper section of the gorge that very few people have seen. It will be a wonderful scenic connection to Taft Highway" on Walden's Ridge not far from the Lone Oak community.
Patten said he had hoped for a long time to see the corridor become part of the park or be made into a greenway.
When Vickrey approached him with a purchase and gift idea, the dream became a reality.
"And I had no idea I owned six miles of stream front," Patten said. "I thought it was about three [miles.]"
He said Lyndhurst Foundation, the conservancy and the state came together to make the transfer happen.
Vickrey said Lyndhurst contributed $250,000 toward the purchase, including $150,000 for the land survey and legal work. The state contributed $350,000.
He said the land is valued at $695,000.
"So it was a very good deal for the state," he said.
Fulcher said park officials and the Cumberland Trail Conference soon will be "putting our heads together" on a volunteer trail building plan, and he hopes many local residents will help.
The corridor that includes Old Anderson Pike will take hikers along an original portion of the historic toll road built in 1852 across Walden's Ridge. At one end of the road, two rock bridge abutments line the creek.
Eventually, Patten said, there will be a new foot bridge there for hikers.
"Years ago when I would go with my father, that's the route we would take," he said. "I know it's not on the same order as the Riverwalk, but it's a big deal. And I'm thrilled."