2021/09/08

City Lake in Cookeville, Tennessee

City Lake Falls, City Lake State Natural Area, Putnam County, Tennessee 5 - Credit Annabelle Dempsey
Photo credit Annabelle Dempsey


City Lake is an articifial impoundment located near Cookeville's Eastlake subdivision. It is within property managed by the city of Cookeville as a park, named City Lake Natural Area.

While the history of City Lake in Cookeville is fascinating, I could never cover it as well as Jennie Ivey has. I will simply leave you with a brief explanation of the local geology.

The karst spring which feeds the waterfall is formed at the contact of the St. Louis and Warsaw Limestones (more about those types of waterfalls here). It is a type of geologic contact based waterfall that is seen throughout the region. Other places include Milligan Road spring, Piper Falls, High Hope Falls, and Peters Falls (all in White County, Tennessee). The reason for this is due to an abundance of chert acting as an aquatard either in the lower portion of the St. Louis, or upper portion of the Warsaw Limestone. This prevents water from moving vertically and forces its lateral flow downhill.

While City Lake Falls has one distinctive main spring, the entire geologic contact erupts with waterfalls during high water events. This suggests the possibility of other as of yet undiscovered conduits feeding to this location.

Janice Curtis, City Lake Falls, Putnam County, TennesseeCity Lake Falls, Putnam County, Tennessee 7 City Lake Falls, Putnam County, Tennessee 8 Main Stream, City Lake Falls State Natural Area, Putnam County, Tennessee
Photo credit Annabelle Dempsey


The lake below the waterfall, City Lake, is currently at the end of its life. Since its impoundment, sediment from the watershed above has slowly been making its way into the lake, and settling out. Sandbars have developed within the lake which are now growing grasses and shrubs. The transition between a lacustrine enrivonment and swamp is well underway. If this continues, it will disrupt some of the recreational uses of the park, like fishing and kayaking. As Jennie's article above mentions, there are those in the community who wish it to be dredged of sediments so that it can resume function as a lake.

Others in the local community, and those prefering a more enrivonmental agenda prefer to see that it be returned to its original environment and the dam removed. Dams fragment natural ecosystems and their removal restores the migration of animals, nutrients, and sediments within the riparian system.

An argument could be made for either side. Only time will tell how Cookeville chooses to manage this resource.

City Lake, Putnam County, Tennessee 3 City Lake, City Lake Natural Area, Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

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