Catoosa Wildlife Management Area
82,000 acres of wild land on the upper Cumberland Plateau in both Morgan and Cumberland counties. This area offers some of the best hunting in East Tennessee! This area is home to deer, wild turkey, wild boar, fox squirrels, gray squirrels, ruffed grouse, raccoons, quail, rabbits, and mourning doves. For your fishermen, the game include smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, and muskellunge.
Although the area is funded by hunters and fishermen, it is popular with all outdoor enthusiasts! Backpacking is very popular in the area, as well as whitewater rafting! The area has many deep cut canyons created by the rivers and streams, and offers access to beautiful scenery unlike anywhere else. The many trails allow access to the back country, but perhaps the best known path is the Cumberland Trail which passes through the area.
Overnight camping is allowed on designated areas. The area is closed to entry between sunset and sunrise.
History of Catoosa WMA
Man’s first use of the plateau was as hunting grounds. Artifacts found in caves and rock shelters suggest Mississippian and later Cherokee hunters camped here but never established permanent dwellings. The hunting grounds were visited seasonally by the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Shawnees, and were the subject of repeated conflicts. In the eighteenth century, longhunters came to hunt game, and English, Scots-Irish and German settlers settled in small hamlets mostly in the valleys.
In 1797, Francis Bailey wrote, “…about five o’clock we arrived at Crab Orchard. Here we found a large plain or natural meadow, containing many hundred acres covered throughout its whole extent with a tall, rich grass.” Two years later, in 1799, Martin Steiner wrote, “…then we crossed barren hills where only bushes grew. Now and then one saw a little tree.” There were many other such accounts indicating the open nature of the terrain and the presence of great herds of elk, deer, and bison.
Ecologists believe the prairie-like environment arose from intense grazing and periodic burning by the Native Americans. The plateau reforested when the Amerindians stopped coming. The white settlers visited the high country occasionally to mine coal and harvest timber before major industry came to the area with the first lumber mill in the 1870s. By 1911, two coal and lumber companies had formed a syndicate that exploited the region untilthe main bridges on their rail lines were destroyed by a flood in 1929. As the companies cleared the woodland they leased these lands to small farms for arable and animal farming.
The Great Depression prevented the industrial companies from reinvesting in the repair of their railroads and businesses began to fail. In 1940 the Crossville Exchange Club appointed a committee to encourage the state to purchase some of the abandoned land for a wildlife management area. The Conservation Commission bought 63,000 acres (250 km²) from the Tennessee Mineral and Lumber Company in 1942 using Pittman-Robertson federal aid funds. In 1949 the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission, now the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), established a tentative purchase boundary encompassing some 90,000 acres (360 km²) within which they began to eliminate interior holdings through a land acquisition program. As of 1999 this program was still in train.
For More Information
Further information about the Catoosa Wildlife Managmenet Area is available by calling the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) at their Crossville office at (931) 456-2479.
Downloadable PDF Maps
Official Catoosa WMA Map
A map that shows the entire Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, including campgrounds, check stations, rivers, roads and protected land areas. (PDF Format – 708Kb)