Change is Lurking at Kaycliff Center on Boone Lake

John M. Dabbs

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

Judge Clifford and Kay Sanders established the Kaycliff Foundation in 2002. The foundation handles maintaining their collection of big game trophies and artifacts. The collection spans over five decades of adventure and around the globe. Upon their passing, the Sanders left the bulk of their estate to the foundation. It was to use their collection for public educational, recreational, and training purposes. The Foundation has rented Kaycliff Center at Boone Lake for private gatherings (to include weddings, birthdays, class reunions, corporate events, etc.).

Change is in the air

The Foundation will continue renting the Kaycliff Center for select private events going forward. They plan a hard pivot, to be more open to the public. This will further their goal and mission of education, recreation, and training.

The Kaycliff Foundation is planning improvements to Kaycliff Center. These include:

  • A roughly one-mile walking trail around the perimeter of a Cove of Boone Lake
  • Interpretive trail shelters that tell the story of the places the Sanders visited
  • A playground that allows children to imagine a journey around the world

As planning continues to move forward, the foundation will announce a construction timeline.

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

The Kaycliff Center at Boone Lake is a multi-faceted facility on the shores of Boone Lake in Washington County, Tennessee. They established it to fulfill the educational, training, and recreational mission of the Kaycliff Foundation.

The center of attention

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

The principal building was the home of Judge Sanders, and his wife, built to house their collections. Their home transformed into a beautiful event venue and museum. They established the Kaycliff Foundation to carry on their curated work and provide a space for enjoyment, as they had no children.

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

The grounds on the tranquil shores of Boone Lake are a simple drive from the Gray exit on Interstate-26, in Tennessee. The nondescript road leads to a grand gated entrance. The entryway reminds me of Jurassic Park, without the deadly dinosaurs.

About the Kaycliff Center - video :

The facility has a full kitchen available for caterers or rental parties to use. This is a great benefit for banquets, receptions, and parties.

(photo courtesy of Kaycliff Foundation)

The Museum

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

The Kaycliff Center is centered on the former home of Judge and Mrs. Sanders. With no children, they formed a foundation to preserve their home and collections. These were to serve the community as a unique venue for corporate meetings, entertainment, and educational venue. It serves the community as a venue for events, individuals, businesses, and government entities. All proceeds go to the maintenance and operation of the facility.

Big game

The museum area in the lower level displays the extensive big game trophy collection. Judge Sanders and his wife collected the specimens.


The film library contains footage of Judge Sanders’ travels and big game hunts in Africa, India, and other regions of the world. Films (CDs) are available at no cost for off-site showing, as part of the foundation's educational mission. They are made freely available to local service, school, civic, and church groups. Other venues and group requests are evaluated and may incur a fee.


An anthropological collection is part of the museum. It includes artifacts accumulated during the travels to various cultures of Africa and New Guinea.

The lower level serves as a nature museum with interactive displays featuring various trophies and artifacts. These are displayed in natural settings for the education and entertainment of people of all ages. (The Sanders’ collection of primitive New Guinea artifacts is reputed to be one of the most extensive collections privately held).

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

Kaycliff Foundation

Judge Cliff Sanders and his wife Kay established the Kaycliff Foundation in 2002. The foundation is a non-profit corporation they formed to maintain their extensive big-game trophy and anthropological artifacts collection in a museum-type setting. They hoped the foundation would use their home and collections for educational, training, and recreational purposes.

About Judge Sanders

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation - Clifford Eugene Sanders)

Cliff Sanders was the Senior Judge on the Tennessee Appellate Court (1991-1992). Born Clifford Eugene Sanders (1912-2007), he was one of nine children born to Henry A. and Ada P. Sanders in Carter, Oklahoma. He attended Southwestern State University in Oklahoma and moved to Tennessee to attend Cumberland Law School in Lebanon in the 1930s. Upon graduation, he went into practice in Kingsport, Tennessee. He married Kathleen "Kay" Marcel Current (1922-2000), of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1945. Kay worked as a private secretary and office manager in Sanders' private practice and served as secretary again during his tenure on the Court of Appeals.

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation - Kathleen Sanders)

During World War II, Sanders served in the US Navy as Flight Director on the USS San Jacento County. Assigned to battle groups in the 5th and 7th Fleets, the carrier came under Kamikaze attack by the Japanese on many occasions. He was awarded seven battle stars. The USS San Jacento County held the record - having fought in more battles and steamed more miles during the last year of the war than any other aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy.

After WW-II, Sanders returned to private law practice in Kingsport. In 1970, he was appointed to the Eastern Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, replacing retired Judge Luke McAmis. During his tenure, he served as Presiding Judge of the Eastern Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals and Presiding Judge of the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

Following World War II, Judge Sanders and Kyle Huddle, formed the Tennessee Cable Television Corporation, the second oldest cable television company in the United States.

(photo by Kaycliff Foundation)

Sanders and his wife shared many interests:

  • including world travel
  • big game hunting
  • photography
  • sociological and anthropological interest in primitive peoples
  • private aviation

Both licensed pilots, Cliff and Kay both maintained multi-engine and commercial pilot ratings.

Judge Sanders and his wife enjoyed safaris on every continent. They traveled extensively in North America, Mexico, Central, and South America, India, East Africa, South Africa, Spain, Australia, Russia, China, New Zealand, and in the Amazon River Basin.

They were interested in conservation and habitat preservation. Judge Sanders was a long-time member and past president of the Shikar-Safari Club International, a big game hunting and habitat preservation organization.

Dealing with COVID

At present, the Kayliff Center is not accepting news reservations, as they continue to work with current bookings. Check back with them often and contact them via their website or on Facebook for updates.

Look ahead

If you need a great location, I highly recommend the Kaycliff Center. Their well-kept grounds and facility are an excellent place to educate a group on the trophies and artifacts collected by Judge Sanders and his wife, Kay.

It's also a hidden gem of an event venue that is worthy of consideration for your next gathering. Take note - they will have someone on-site to monitor things and protect the museum area. They usually lock it up when the center is rented for events. I can see the layout being ideal for setting up a Casino-type fundraiser, wedding, engagement party, retirement party, or corporate retreat.

This isn't a place for wild parties with kids and teens, as there are breakables and many items an adult would know to respect. It is a place for a grown-up attitude. It's beautiful and worthy of your time and consideration.

The future

The announced changes at the Kaycliff Center will surely improve upon the foundation's work. The hidden gem continues to be an excellent location and setting for learning and gathering with friends, family, or colleagues.

As Boone Lake's shores begin to rise this spring and summer, there is a newness that comes with the area. The TVA Boone Dam rehabilitation is nearing completion. Perhaps it is the catalyst for renewal in the whole area. The Kaycliff Center appears to be embodying a similar theme.

For more information, check out their website or find them on Facebook.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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