The central part of the state of Tennessee could be compared to a giant donut. The Central Basin is the “hole” in the center and the donut around this basin is called the Highland Rim. The northern parts of the rim are mostly in Kentucky and the southern parts are mostly in Alabama. In Tennessee, we have the Western Highland Rim and the Eastern Highland Rim geologic provinces. The Great Western Valley of the Tennessee River roughly forms the western boundary of the highland rim. But there are some small sections of the rim that lie west of the river. These hilly areas were cut off the rim when the river started flowing through the valley.

The hills on the western side of the river are seen in several places, like Decatur and Benton Counties. There are places where the river has eroded through the hills and exposed sheer limestone bluffs. Two notable examples are Pine Bluff in Stewart County and Ladyfinger Bluff in Perry County. Ladies Bluff, as it is called today, has a beautiful view of the river and is a prominent landmark for river travelers.

Red Cedars on Ladies Bluff

On Ladies Bluff are very old, gnarled Red Cedar trees. Ring counts of trees in this kind of habitat have shown them to be hundreds of years old. They could be called natural Bonsai trees. The old trees were there when the only river traffic was dugout canoes.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has designated the bluff a ‘Small Wild Area’ and maintains a lovely trail to the bluff top. The west side of the river at this point is part of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge. The hills to the south, on the east side, are part of the Mousetail Landing State Park. This beautiful park has great river views, clear streams over gravel stream beds, and an interesting history. The story goes that a tannery located at the landing caught fire and lots of mice were seen running from the burning building. Ever since then the name has stuck.

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