The Obed Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center, located at 208 North Maiden Street in downtown Wartburg, has a variety of unique specimens in its collection. The specimens are divided into three main themes: Recreation, Cultural History, and Natural History.
The Recreation section displays chronological selections of canoes and kayaks, ranging from a Grumman Aluminum Canoe of the 1960s, to a Perception Dancer Kayak of the 1990s. Also included in the recreation section are ropes, helmets, and various other rock-climbing devices that are used today on the dozens of climbing routes along the Obed.
The cultural history section of the visitor center includes some very unique items. Although many people think its a canoe or a coffin, a long salt-curing box is on display. This box, which was cut from a yellow poplar tree in 1862 in Morgan County, Tennessee, was useful in curing a variety of meats and hams in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Preservation methods of that time may not have included ice as a coolant, so salt-curing boxes such as this were extremely important to pioneer families. Although its weight is unknown, the soft wooden box is set on coasters, and was hewn from primitive axes and tools of the eastern Tennessee region.
Also on display in this section is an actual 350-pound millstone retrieved from Clear Creek in 2002. Several gristmills dotted the area prior to the great flood of 1929, and this millstone is but one surviving artifact of that era. Next to the millstone is a portion of an old wooden tub wheel which belonged to the Howard mill. The mill was operated by the Howard family in the 1940s, and was located near the current Lilly Bridge. Rounding out the collection are several arrowheads that were used by Native Americans during the Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods, and a display of pioneer home-making items.
The natural history section includes 15 different animal species. They include a wild turkey, a variety of fish that can still be caught today in the Obed, a river otter, several owls and hawks, small game such as squirrels, foxes and weasels, and what seems to be a visitor favorite, a wild boar. Most of the species can still be seen along the Cumberland Plateau, albeit not during all seasons of the year.
On occasion, several of the artifacts on display will be removed to go with a ranger to a school program. All of the artifacts are on loan, courtesy of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Did You Know?
Did you know that the Obed Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center was at one time a bank building? It includes exhibits on the site and a small bookstore.