Rock Island Morning Shoot

Location: Rock Island State Park, end of Power House Road.

82 Beach Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581

Leader:  Bill Miller

Departure from Country Inn & Suites at 6:30 am for about a 40 minute drive. Carpooling highly recommended.
Time at the park: about 2 hours
Return to Country Inn & Suites: 9:00 am.

At the end of the small parking area on Power House Road, the 80' tall and 200' wide Twin Falls is in full view from across the Caney Fork River and Gorge. Well behind the falls and out of sight, the Collins River loops around and eventually joins the Caney Fork just above the TVA Great Falls Dam. The rising waters of the Collins Rivers found their way through porous rock and perhaps cave systems to the bluffs overlooking the Caney Gorge, creating an ever-present series of waterfalls and stair-stepped cascades.

Although the overlook at the end of the small parking area is wheelchair accessible, the short trail we will take begins at the bottom of a long stairway, perhaps 20-25' below. The mostly-easy 1½ mile lollipop-shaped Downstream Trail follows the Caney Fork River and Gorge, offering several viewpoints of the falls across the river. Both wide-angle and short telephoto focal lengths will capture stunning images. About .2 of a mile along the wide trail is a spur which steeply climbs the bluff to the right, reaching a small cavern and Little Falls. A few wooden steps are involved before getting to the cavern. Walking through the cavern to the other side offers the best view of Little Falls. As the Little Falls Creek flows to the river, passing over the trail in a couple spots, it drops over a short rock wall creating another pretty cascade.

At this point, the trail begins to narrow, and a short wooden stairway is used to navigate up a steep hill. From the top of the stairway, the trail follows a ridge and gradually descends to a spectacular rock wall at a location known at the Blue Hole. Photos of the rock wall as you approach it and from the rock wall aimed up the gorge can be spectacular. At Blue Hole, the trail splits into a loop. Going clockwise, the trail continues to follow the bluff high above the river until the end of the loop, at which point the trail heads back to the Blue Hole area through the woods. There is a short spur near the end of the loop that drops to the river's edge.

Rock Island is also know for its wildflowers, and they certainly are abundant along the trail. As you know, timing is everything, and even early April is considered to be near the end of most of the blooms. But you never know.

-Although most of the trail is easy and flat, there are a couple areas that might be considered "moderate" difficulty. These can be avoided if you wish.
-Depending on the weather and the amount of water flow from Little Falls Creek, the trail can get wet and muddy, so wear appropriate shoes/boots.
-Getting off trail, particularly towards the river can involve climbing down short rock walls. It can get slippery, and I have seen some minor falls, so care is required.
-Be alert for poison ivy, particularly in the loop area of the trail.
-There are no restrooms in this area of the park. Plan accordingly, and offer privacy when there is a need.

A 2-hour visit will only give you a brief glimpse of a spectacular park, hopefully wetting your appetite for a return to see the rest of the park under always changing conditions.


Outing led by:

Bill Miller

Bill has always enjoyed travel, and a camera has always been close at hand to document the incredible scenery the world offers. Whether underwater or above water, his images attempt to capture the diversity of the places he has had the good fortune to visit. While landscape and nature photography might be his favorite, a passion to both learn and teach sparks an interest in various other types of photography as well.

Bill has lived most his life firmly planted in the “left brain”, as evidenced by undergraduate degrees in Math and Physics, a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, and business careers in and around Information Technology with Hewlett-Packard and Anheuser-Busch. As a creative outlet, however, Bill bought his first camera, a Nikkormat, while in college. He dabbled with black and white photography and “messy” chemicals in his dormitory darkroom. Soon, his interest turned to capturing vivid colors using slide film.

A turning point in Bill’s life was in 1980 when he took up scuba diving at the same time (but in a different class) as his future wife, Sandy, a graphic artist and designer. The total experience of breathing underwater and suspended weightlessly in a foreign world is a whole other story. It was not long into the diving experience before Bill began capturing underwater images with a new Nikonos camera, strobe, and a variety of lenses. Part of the experience was learning that waterproof cameras…aren’t.

Bill became a scuba instructor in 1984. He married Sandy in 1985, then helped her earn scuba instructor certification. Together, they taught scuba, and Bill taught Sandy and others underwater photography. For almost twenty years, they led group adventure / diving trips throughout the Caribbean and Pacific. Following each trip Bill and Sandy edited hundreds of slides, then organized the best into a computerized two-projector slide show synchronized to music. These entertaining shows became the basis for lectures about the underwater world Bill presented to a variety of groups in the St. Louis area. His underwater images became popular, and trip participants and other diving enthusiasts purchased his prints.

For health reasons, Bill and Sandy retired from diving after their last trip in 2001. While Sandy turned her creative energy to ceramics, Bill had to relearn how to take pictures with feet firmly planted on the ground and with cameras that were not submerged in salt water. After a couple years of continuing to use slide film, Bill acquired his first digital SLR camera, the Nikon D100, which was upgraded to the D200 and finally to the D600. In 2016, Bill made the ultimate switch from the Nikon’s dSLR line to Fujifilm’s mirrorless X-T2. It is an outstanding camera in almost every imaginable way. Bill’s darkroom is now filled with computers, scanners, and printers instead of chemicals. Finally with the merging of digital technology and photography, Bill’s left and right brains are whole.

Bill retired from Anheuser-Busch at the end of 2008 after the company’s unfortunate purchase by InBev. At the same time, Sandy graduated from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, receiving her BFA degree in Ceramics. After two more years in St. Louis engaged in contract work and taking advantage of travel opportunities with Sandy whenever possible, they moved to Cookeville, Tennessee (about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville).

Why Cookeville? “Cookeville has exceeded our expectations in every way: less traffic, great value on a wonderful house, friendly people, great university with fun sporting and cultural events, art scene, and incredible outdoor activities, perhaps our favorite being hiking to numerous waterfalls.” Both Bill and Sandy have been active in the Cookeville Camera Club, where he has served as Vice President and President of the club; wrote their website using WordPress, PHP, and MySQL; and has taught introductory photography and Adobe Lightroom courses. Bill and Sandy also volunteer their time to local charitable organizations.


Shot list:

01 -- stairway at the end of Power House Road and a small parking area.  Our meeting place.
02 -- Twin Falls from the bottom of the stairway
03 -- Twin Falls
04 -- Kayaking on the Caney Fork (2012 international's competition)
05 -- Kayaking on the Caney Fork (2012 international's competition)
06 -- Photographing on the Downstream Trail
07 -- Stair-stepped cascades along the gorge
08 -- On the spur to the cavern & Little Falls
09 -- Inside the small cavern
10 -- Little Falls
11 -- Little Falls creek cascading over a rock wall on the river side of the trail
12 -- on the trail
13 -- spring redbuds
14 -- looking up the gorge from the Blue Hole bluff
15 -- spring wildflowers
16 -- spring wildflowers