At Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park, travelers will find there is something for both history and nature lovers alike. The state park features historic and educational sites alongside hiking and caving opportunities, serving as a site of political and natural history.
Located in Byrdstown, Tennessee, the 55 acre park encompasses the birthplace of politician Cordell Hull. Best known for his role as Secretary of State under President FDR, Tennessee-native Hull won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his foundational work toward forming the United Nations. Visitors of the park can explore this history and put themselves in Hull’s shoes as a young Tennessean as they visit historic sites and natural features within the park’s borders.
Those interested in learning more about Hull’s humble beginnings in Tennessee can visit the several buildings dedicated to the politician’s life. The park features a replication of Hull’s childhood log cabin, along with the Cordell Hull Museum, featuring memorabilia from throughout his life. Visitors can also visit the Hull Library and Archives, which hosts a rich collection of books, original photographs, and a replica of Hull’s Nobel Prize. Outside of Hull’s house is a historical garden, wherein park staff grow crops typical of the Hull’s childhood garden during the summer months.
The park hosts a speaker series the first Saturday of each month and offers planned school programming for educators looking to immerse students into Tennessee history by visiting the park.
Once they’ve learned more about Hull’s life and career, visitors can head to the Bunkham Cave Loop for a hike. The trail is a moderate, 2.5 mile hike that takes visitors to the base of Bunkham Cave, traveling through scenic flora and fauna on the way. The trail passes by a scenic overlook before dropping down to a bottomland hardwood forest, where hikers will find themselves walking among limestone formations, empty creekbeds, ferns, and wildflowers– especially abundant in the spring months– as they trek toward the cave.
Benches located throughout the trail provide opportunities to rest. Birders may find themselves impressed with the ample opportunities to see a variety of woodland species along the trail.
At the bottom of the Bunkham Cave Loop lies the trail’s namesake: an awe-striking 100 ft wide, 50 ft tall limestone cave. The cave, which lies along the headwaters of Cove Creek, is evidenced to have been occupied as far back as 1,000BCE and, more recently, was used by Cordell Hull’s father as a moonshine distillery during the family’s occupation of the area.
Visitors are permitted to explore the entrance of the cave on their own, but must register and participate in a ranger-led tour of the cave if they wish to travel further back into its crevices.
The cave is open for exploration from May 1-Aug 31, with 20 permits issued per day for those seeking more in-depth explorations. Visitors are encouraged to register for permits ahead of time to ensure their entry and are reminded to be responsible environmental stewards and practice Leave No Trace practices when in the cave.