Photo Credit: Chuck Sutherland
Cumberland County

Black Mountain

PROJECT PARTNERS Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Through a generous donation, TennGreen Land Conservancy assisted in the conservation of 518 acres of high bluffs, wildflowers, and historic ruins along Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park (the Cumberland Trail).

Black Mountain is a 2,900′ tall mountain on the Cumberland Plateau that encompasses magnificent 270-million year old sandstone bluffs. TennGreen Land Conservancy’s effort to protect Black Mountain began in 1890 with Dr. A.C. and Ella Eaton Gill, who purchased the 518-acre property as a place for a summer home at a time when it was only accessible by mule or on foot. After Dr. Gill—a professor at Cornell University—passed away, his wife, Ella, gave the property to the Cumberland Mountain School. The deed stated that this mountain was intended as a wildlife preserve and as a place of study, meditation, recreation, work, and worship.

The Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (TNUMC) became the eventual property owners, and they kept the Gills’ wishes for almost 70 years by allowing the public to use the site for worship and play. Then, during TennGreen’s campaign for Black Mountain, TNUMC donated more than half of the value of the property to the campaign. In 2002, TennGreen purchased Black Mountain, which represents several compelling conservation interests.

The scenic views from atop the sandstone bluffs encompass a lush grassy cove, and in the evenings a purple haze hovers over the Great Smoky Mountains, which linger a mere 75 miles in the distance. A natural Tennessee garden displays threatened plant species such as the Flame Azalea and the Pip Sissy Wa, which cling to life on the wind-swept bluffs. Additionally, it provides an important connection along Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park and exemplifies the conservancy’s commitment to connect large natural areas for wildlife corridors, critical habitat, and public benefit (e.g., recreation).