Friday, January 22, 2016
Martin Springs seems like it should be one of the most interesting places to visit in Tennessee, and yet I've had trouble finding anybody who had ever heard of it.
This interesting geologic feature is located in Battle Creek Valley not far from where Interstate 24 ascends Monteagle on the east side of the mountain. This is the entrance to a water-filled cave and it is said that the springs have 6500 gallons of water flow out of it every minute forming Battle Creek!
Some of the earliest history to occur here was this was along the Bell Route of the Trail of Tears and the area was used as a campsite by the Cherokee in 1838. There is a historic marker here that notes the Trail of Tears as well as Civil War Battles that took place here.
The Dixie Highway, one of the earliest cross-country highways in the country, passed right by this spring. Thornton Herbert Martin bought the land at the spring and soon opened Martin Springs Tourist Camp which offered cabins and a boardinghouse for the early highway travelers. Back then, anyone who had a spring advertised the supposed healing properties of the water. Eventually this segment of the Dixie Highway became US41 and was much traveled for many years until the interstate came through the area and US41 was rerouted. I'm not sure when the tourist cabins closed but an interstate makes it tougher to stop at spur-of-the-moment places such as this. The area is still private property and now almost completely forgotten.
In the Winter of 2012, I drove down this stretch of road in an attempt to see everything along the old Dixie Highway. Because the interstate runs through the area, the road is now only used by the locals. There were not any signs, or any other forms of evidence that the spring is here, although I didn't know to look for it.
I was looking on Ebay for some Tennessee postcards when I came across a couple of Real Photo Post Cards of this place. None of my friends or relatives familiar with the area had heard of the place. There was a Marion County brochure at the nearest I24 rest area that listed about 30 points of interest but not the spring. (The guy at the rest area information desk hadn't heard of it either, although he told me about a couple of other interesting spots.)
Finally, I found the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association website which mentions it, although they say to follow the signs, when there aren't any. They note the area is private property, but visitors are welcome. Since I can't find any other source to verify visitors are welcome, I emailed them just to make sure. A nice lady wrote me back and said it was true.
Here's how to get there:Along Interstate 24, the last exit before going up to Monteagle on the east side is called Martin Springs Road. From this exit, turn towards the fireworks store and then left down Martin Springs Road. Drive about a mile. Eventually, you'll see a spot where the road is extra wide, which provides a place for you to park. There are two gravel driveways here and the nice thing to do is not park on those. The one on the right has multiple "No Trespassing" signs and the one on the left had a rope over the entrance on the day I was there. Between the two (and it took me a while to find it) was a small path through the trees. And then you're here! I've also geotagged this photo to help you find it.