Obed Wild and Scenic River Segment

Passing through lands surrounding the federally designated Obed Wild and Scenic River, this segment of the Cumberland Trail will connect with the proposed Crab Orchard Mountain Segment to the south and the Frozen Head Segment to the north, when connecting trail is completed.

At present, there are two sections open to hiking.




Legend has it that the Obed was named after Obediah Terrell, a longhunter who passed through the area in the late 18th century.  Presumably, Terrell named the Obed and the Obey rivers, and both were named “Obey.” Mapmakers later changed the name of the southern river to “Obed,” to distinguish it from the northern river.  The Obed River drains east to the Emory River near Nemo Bridge. —Mark Stanfill


Obed River (Mark Stanfill)

Obed River (Mark Stanfill)


Wild and Scenic River


The beauty of the Obed River Gorge was once almost lost forever. In the mid-1960s, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) proposed a dam for the Obed River to be located at Alley Ford. Back then, the Obed watershed was little explored and unknown to all but adventurous paddlers. Bill and Lee Russell were two of the few who had explored the gorges and took up the cause of defending the Obed. Along with a group that eventually became Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP), the Russells were able to demonstrate that the value of preserving the wild river system far outweighed any benefit to be obtained by the flood control or recreation benefits of a dam.


With popular support to preserve the river, and TCWP’s sound economic analysis, TVA dropped the dam proposal for Alley Ford. But TCWP realized that long-term protection for the river was still needed. The Obed was included in a study for the first national Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSRs) Act in 1968 and was eventually designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1976. Since then, the Obed has been one of the few WSRs managed by the National Park Service. But the fight to protect the Obed is still not complete. Even now, much of the land to be acquired and included in the Obed WSR remains in private ownership due to lack of funding for these land purchases. —Hiram Rogers




Click on the links below to get detailed trail descriptions.

Obed River Section

Emory River Gorge Section




Obed River Section - Don Deakins