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Big South Fork National River And Recreation Area

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Spread out along the Cumberland Plateau, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork River and its tributaries. The park features miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs and is rich with natural and historic features. This less-crowded alternative to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers several added bonuses to the wide range of adventures that can be enjoyed in the park. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails and the park features almost 35 miles of trails for mountain bikers. Multi-use Trails run along the ridge featuring striking panoramic views that showcase the Cumberland Plateau Valley and the Big South Fork River below.

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Camping: There are five developed campgrounds to meet the needs of almost any camper visiting the park. The Bandy Creek Campground has 100 sites with water, electric, restrooms and swimming pool. There are 50 tent sites and 2 group camping areas. The Blue Heron Campground has 49 sites with water, electric, and restrooms. The backcountry Charit Creek Lodge is accessible only by foot or horseback, offers full service accommodations but no phones or electricity and is concession operated.

Equestrian: There are over 200 miles of horse trails available throughout the Big South Fork. These horse trails are all signed and marked with white blaze and yellow horse heads. The trails vary in both their length and degree of difficulty. They range from short, easy day rides to long and strenuous loops that may take several days to complete. There are 2 horse camps each providing electric, restrooms with showers, and a four-horse tie stall. The Station Camp offers 24 sites while the Bear Creek Horse Camp has 23 sites.

Fishing: The Big South Fork itself boasts over 138 miles of fishing streams and is home to 79 species of fish 15 of which are classified as game fish. All together the fish population contains a total of 12 different families, including lampreys, darters, shiners, minnows, suckers, and bass. Within the watersheds surrounding the park there are a total of 113 species of fish. more information

Mountain Biking: The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) has named 5 trails in Big South Fork as Epic Rides, making this the first national park unit in the US to receive this elite designation. The trails are Collier Ridge (approximately 5.5 miles of single-track); West Bandy (3 miles of single-track); Duncan Hollow (2.3 miles of single-track); Grand Gap Loop (6.8 miles, with a few technical sections); and the portion of the John Muir Trail from Grand Gap Loop to Station Camp (7.5 miles, mostly flat and smooth). Together, the Grand Gap Loop and the John Muir Trail create a 16-mile "lollipop loop" that forms the nucleus of longer rides when combined with the park's gravel roads. Althogether, there are 35 miles of trails open to mountain bikers. The park offers a brochure with map and a list of trail descriptions.

Paddling: The Big South Fork NRRA protects over 80 miles of navigable water for whitewater paddlers to run. Some stretches may be ideal for skilled beginners, while other sections should be attempted only by highly skilled paddlers with the proper equipment. There are streams which can be floated during any time of the year while others have enough water for paddling only during seasons with sufficient rainfall.

Trails: Enjoy over 180 miles of hiking trails with plenty of loops or one-ways options. In addition, hikers can use the horse trails to connect to different routes. The trails are well marked with arrowhead markers of the John Muir figurehead. Trails range from easy to difficult with no trails listed as strenuous, making this an excellent area for first time hikers. If you begin your trip and find that you are out of shape, stick to the plateaus with side hikes into the gorge area. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring. And bring your favorite canine companion, leashed dogs are welcomed on the trails!

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