Ozone Falls in Cumberland County plunges 110 feet into a picturesque pool surrounded by a steep sandstone amphitheater. Visitors would be correct if the breathtaking landscape feels like something out of a Hollywood movie.
"In the movie The Jungle Book, a couple of scenes were actually filmed here at Ozone Falls," said Monica Johnson, an Interpretive Specialist with Cumberland Mountain State Park. "It is just a beautiful place. You park just off Highway 70, you walk a couple of hundred yards, and you have this massive waterfall."
With easy access from Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70, the scenic waterfall and the surrounding 43-acre natural area is a popular spot for tourists.
"It's very popular in the summer when the water level drops. People come down to the pool at the bottom where the water may be three to four feet deep, at the most," said Johnson.
In addition to drawing tourists and film-makers, the majestic waterfall once attracted industry.
"They had a lot of sawmills and grist mills along the creek. There was one mill that was built directly at the edge of the falls. In the spring of 1900, that sawmill was washed over the falls, so that was the last one built here," said Johnson.
Of all the historical facts Johnson can tell you about the area, the issue that attracts the most questions pertains to the origin of the name Ozone Falls.
"Just about every time we have a group visit the falls, we get asked that about the name," said Johnson. "This place was called several things, but 1896 is when it got the name 'Ozone' because of the air quality."
In the late 19th century, the term ozone was not associated with pollution and poor air quality. The locals who gave the falls its ozone moniker associated the word with rarefied air that one might find high in the atmosphere.
"The old-timers felt like it was the stimulating quality of air that came from the mist of the waterfall as it plunged over. I think the mist just makes it cooler and refreshing to be down here on a hot summer day. The air feels fresh and it is just very enjoyable," said Johnson. "The name Ozone also stuck for the community around this area."
Visiting Ozone Falls
Johnson warned visitors to exercise caution at the Ozone Falls Natural Area.
"This is a natural area, so that means there are no rails or protection to keep something or someone from falling over the edge of a 110 foot cliff," said Johnson. "We tell people that everything is at their own risk. We recommend people not get any closer than one body's length to the edge. The rock up here is sandstone, so there are some sandy surfaces at the top that could affect your footing."
The parking area is a short walk from the top of the falls. The more difficult place to reach is the water below. A sign marked "plunge pool" directs visitors to a steep and rocky path to reach the bottom.
"It is not a very long hike down to the bottom, but it is steep and can be strenuous. If it has been raining the rocks can be slick, so you just have to take your time and be careful," said Johnson. "We also recommend people have some kind of shoes if they go wading into the plunge pool because the bottom can be sharp."
The Ozone Falls Natural Area website has more information, maps, and driving directions for those interested in visiting the waterfall.
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