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Contact: Tom Blount, (423) 569-9778
Contact: Christopher Derman
Since the Great Depression, both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) were interested in damming the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River for hydropower. Specifically, the COE proposed building a dam at the Devil's Jump rapid in McCreary County, Kentucky, which would have created the tallest dam in the eastern United States with an impoundment covering almost 40,000 acres.
While the US Senate approved funding for the dam, the project was repeatedly rejected by the US House of Representatives. In the 1960s, a coalition of conservationists and elected officials, including US Senators Howard Baker, Jr. (R-TN) and John Sherman Cooper (R-KY) proposed a "National River and National Recreation Area." This first-of-its-kind designation would provide a means of preserving the wild character of the gorges while allowing more flexible management on the rim of the plateau.
In 1974, Congress authorized Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Using funding originally set aside for building a dam, the COE was put in charge of developing facilities and acquiring land. On August 25, 1991, the US Army Corps of Engineers transferred management of Big South Fork NRRA to the National Park Service.
Twenty-five years later, Big South Fork NRRA now celebrates its Silver Anniversary on the same day the National Park Service celebrates its Centennial Birthday.