DescriptionApproached by SR 297, US 27, US 127 and SR 52, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area encompasses 125,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. Ninety miles of the Big South Fork River and its tributaries tumble through gorges carved over millions of years in the sandstone of the Cumberland Plateau. The area's eroded landscape—which contains scenic features such as natural arches, pinnacles, spires, sheer bluffs and huge sandstone overhangs—is said to have the most sandstone arches in the eastern United States.
Although much of the area has been logged, lush vegetation nurtured by the region's humid climate now covers ridges and encroaches on abandoned homesteads, logging camps and mining communities. The National Park Service manages the area for its scenic and recreational value.
General InformationThe park has two visitor centers. The Bandy Creek Visitor Center is 15 miles west of Oneida at the Bandy Creek Campground off Leatherwood Ford Road (SR 297), where hiking trails, playing fields and horse stables are available. The recreation area, open all year, is entered from paved Leatherwood Ford Road or by gravel access roads. Blue Heron Mining Community Visitor Center is open seasonally and is on Mine 18 Road in Stearns, Ky. Within the park are miles of dirt back-country roads, 300 miles of horse trails and hiking trails, including sections of Sheltowee Trace Trail and John Muir National Recreation Trail. Phone (423) 286-7275 for the Bandy Creek Visitor Center or (606) 376-5073 for the Blue Heron Interpretive Center.
Nearly 100 miles of navigable waters, ranging in difficulty from those suitable for beginners to those that should be tried only by skilled white-water canoeists, attract paddlers. Sections of the Big South Fork are dangerous and remote, and canoeists and kayakers should plan their trips with care and prepare for emergencies. The visitor center provides the addresses of commercial rafting concessionaires offering trips on certain stretches of the river.
Other popular activities in the recreation area include swimming, hiking, back-country camping, mountain bike riding, and hunting and fishing in accordance with state and federal regulations. Trails, ranging in difficulty, wind past rock shelters, arches, waterfalls and impressive flora.
Pickett State Park and Forest, next to the national area's western boundary, also offers a broad range of facilities.
ADMISSIONADMISSION to the recreation area is free; however, camping fees are charged at all campgrounds. There is a fee for the required back-country camping permits.
PETSPETS are permitted on leash.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, 4564 Leatherwood Rd., Oneida, TN 37841; phone (423) 286-7275 or (423) 569-9778.