The Southeastern Climbers Coalition and The Access Fund are thrilled to announce the purchase and protection of a major new climbing area in eastern Tennessee.
Newly protected Woodcock Cove features a 75’ freestanding tower. Ancestral lands of ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱTsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East.) Caleb Timmerman Photo.
The acquisition and land swap preserves 64 acres of undeveloped land and approximately 60 existing routes, with room for 100-150 more, at all levels. The remote property includes a mile of sandstone cliffline, from 30-90 feet tall, forest land, streams, important wildlife habitat, and outstanding scenic views. Also preserved on the property is a rare 75 foot freestanding sandstone tower, with routes on all sides. The climbing is on high quality orange and tan sandstone, reminiscent of the New River Gorge, Sunset and Castle Rock.
Map created by Shannon Tattich UT – Chattanooga IGTLAb
“This purchase establishes a foothold for public access to recreation in the Sequatchie Valley and protects a critically important landscape that enhances climate resiliency in the region,” says Andrea Hassler, Executive Director for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. “We are ecstatic that climbers in the Southeast continue to play a key role at the intersection of climbing and conservation.”
SCC Stewardship Coordinator Kate Hanes cruising on a sandstone sport line at the Dispensary Wall.
While a handful of climbers have visited the area in the past ten years with landowner permission, public access to Woodcock Cove has never been secure. Last summer, local climber Michael O’Donnell tipped off SCC and Access Fund that the cliffline was up for sale—listed as two separate parcels on the open market. The two organizations worked together to quickly buy one of the parcels, securing half of the cliffline. The property with the other half of the cliff was already under contract and sold to a local couple, Amanda and Mike Murphy. SCC was able to strike a land swap deal with the Murphys, exchanging 27 acres of blufftop land for the additional half mile of cliffline and its 30 established routes.
“It was a pleasure to work with SCC and the climbing community. The land swap was a win-win for both us and climbers. We can manage the health of the forest and wildlife and the climbers can manage the health of the trail and cliff,” said Amanda and Mike Murphy.
The newly acquired climbing area is a win for the area’s outdoor recreation economy and conservation. In addition to climbing, the project protects scenic views of Sequatchie Valley, wildlife corridors, streams and forestland. Caleb Timmerman Photo
Centrally located between Chattanooga, Nashville, and Huntsville, Alabama, Woodcock Cove sits high on the rocky, western rim of Sequatchie Valley. The largely rural area is dotted with small towns but dominated by undeveloped agricultural and forest lands. This area has been identified for its high conservation value and climate resilience, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and connected forest habitat.
“We are incredibly excited to team up again with SCC to help purchase and protect a major new climbing area in the mountains of eastern Tennessee,” says Zachary Lesch-Huie, Southeast Regional Director for Access Fund. “Woodcock Cove is an outstanding and extensive sandstone crag, and its inspiring views over the Sequatchie Valley underscores how important it is for Access Fund to maintain the funds and transaction expertise to move quickly to help our local partners save privately held climbing areas when they go up for sale.”
Andrea Hassler, SCC Executive Director, climbing at Woodcock Cove. Caleb Timmerman Photo
This area is also classified by the state of Tennessee as economically at-risk and distressed. Access Fund, SCC, and county officials hope that sustainable climbing at Woodcock Cove will bring tourism dollars to help bolster the local economy. Studies in the region, including one completed University of Tennessee Chattanooga, find that rock climbers make a significant economic impact at nearby climbing areas like Foster Falls and Denny Cove—in some cases spending up to $14 million a year.
“Outdoor recreation is an important part of our economic future. We’re excited to support this new climbing area and welcome climbers to Sequatchie County,” says Sequatchie County Executive Keith Cartwright.
SCC owns and plans to hold the property for long term climber-friendly management and conservation, alongside the seven other climbing areas it owns in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. The Woodcock Cove project gives SCC a solid foothold to further expand public access in the area, which is home to a mecca of privately owned and untapped climbing resources.
The Red Baron Wall. Photo by SCC Board Member Bob Farley.
The Woodcock Cove purchase is the second largest acquisition that SCC has undertaken since its first purchase in 1999. Access Fund supported the purchase with immediate funds from the Climbing Conservation Loan Program (CCLP). Woodcock Cove is the 30th climbing area conserved through the CCLP, Access Fund’s revolving loan program. SCC will repay the loan over time, returning money to help Access Fund save another new or threatened climbing area in the future. Since CCLP’s inception, Access Fund has loaned $3.2 million to local climbing communities across the country to secure and protect 30 climbing areas.
Board Members Dom Davis and Sammy Raviv. Photo by SCC Board Member Bob Farley.
Chattanooga’s Riverview Foundation also provided a major grant to SCC to support the project’s initial due diligence costs. Riverview Foundation has emerged as a leading supporter of climbing conservation projects in the region, including Access Fund and SCC’s acquisition of Hell’s Kitchen and Dogwood West in Rhea County.
“The Riverview Foundation is excited to be a partner with the Southeast Climbers Coalition in the acquisition of the Woodcock Cove climbing area,” said Bruz Clark, executive director. “Woodcock Cove is a superlative addition to SCC’s portfolio of climbing sites.”
SCC Stewardship Coordinator Kate Hanes celebrates at sunset at the top of the Dispensary Wall. Caleb Timmerman Photo
While initial funding has secured Woodcock Cove, SCC needs the help of local climbers and conservationists to raise $209,000 over the next 3 years to pay off the conservation loans to complete the purchase.