David Smith: Documenting Tennessee’s Beauty 

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

Did you know Tennessee boasts 56 state parks, and over 500 waterfalls? Well, David Smith does, and he wants Clarksville and Fort Campbell residents to know how close they are to some of Tennessee’s most beautiful places. A retired veteran and local photographer, David Smith has made a name for himself in Clarksville with his epic photography. Known for his focus on Clarksville landmarks with an emphasis on historical buildings, David has a strong desire to share his passion for the city he has grown to love. This passion extends to the rest of Tennessee with his latest collection, David Smith: Tennessee Waterfalls at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center. 

The hot summer months are a fantastic time to appreciate a good waterfall. Right now, a walk into the Peg Harvill Gallery is a walk into a waterfall wonderland, with stunning glimpses of some of David Smith’s favorite waterfalls – that aren’t far away from Clarksville and the bustle of the Nashville area. David says many of these waterfalls make great day trips, or “one tank trips.” Pick a day you have free, get up early in the morning, pack a sack lunch and drive a couple hours to check out one of these featured waterfalls. “You’ve taken a day, but you’ve seen a part of Tennessee you didn’t know existed.”   

Carmac Falls 

David learned about this one from chatting with Facebook groups. Carmac Falls – the only waterfall in the exhibit that’s not free to visit – is on the private property of Evins Mill, a resort and event space surrounded by nature in Smithville, a two-hour drive from Clarksville. Evins Mill offers day trip access to the property, with lunch included. The falls can be found at the end of a beautiful hiking trail.  

Cumberland Mountains State Park  

A great place to stop on your way to Gatlinburg, Cumberland Mountains State Park is less than three hours east of Clarksville. Located on the Cumberland Plateau, the park was established in the 1930s as part of the New Deal’s Cumberland Homesteads Project and features cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Aside from a gorgeous bridge and waterfalls, as a state park, Cumberland Mountains also features ranger-hosted programs and activities for all ages. 

Rutledge Falls  

Smack between Tullahoma and Manchester, Rutledge Falls is almost exactly an hour southeast of Nashville, making it a smooth two-hour drive from Clarksville. The falls are free to enjoy, and the spot is a popular swimming hole location in the summer. Just be respectful of the area when you visit, as it is located on privately-owned land.   

David’s passion for sharing what Tennessee has to offer stems from his own relationship to the state. Originally stationed at Fort Campbell in the late 70s, David barely ventured out into Clarksville, let alone the rest of the state. After he retired and moved back to Clarksville permanently, he rediscovered the area with fresh eyes. Trained as a photographer while still in the Army, he switched his focus from documenting crash sites and educational materials, to documenting Clarksville area buildings. David learned to enjoy the state and started to explore.  Many of the places he photographs he learned about through word of mouth. He worries people brought to the area with the military won’t take advantage of their time here in Tennessee.  David encourages everyone to go out and explore with their family or friends. He hopes his waterfalls inspire people to “get out and go!” 

“You don’t know how long you’ll be here. Go and see what beauty there is!”  

Come out and explore David Smith: Tennessee Waterfalls in the Peg Harvill Gallery of the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, up now until August 29. 

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

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