Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area

Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area

Quick Facts

Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area


(423) 569-9778

Map Directions

Things To Do


The free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries pass through ninety miles of scenic gorges and valleys containing a wide range of natural and historic features. The area offers a broad range of recreational opportunities including camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with its experience in managing river basins, was charged with land acquisition, planning, and development of facilities. Now completed, these lands and facilities are operated and maintained by the National Park Service for the benefit and use of the public.

Map of Big South Fork River

Latitude, Longitude: 36.560530, -84.674310



  • Boating

    The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its main tributaries, the Clear Fork, North White Oak and New River offer visitors a variety of whitewater paddling opportunities. While on the river you may still see the results of previous agricultural, mining and logging practices, the land today has a quality of wildness with limited access and sparse development.

  • Bicycling

    Mountain bike riding has become one of the more popular recreational activities enjoyed by visitors to Big South Fork.

    Currently at Big South Fork there are several trails which have been designed, built and are maintained by the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club. In addition to bike only trails, mountain bikes are allowed on highway edges, backcountry roads and horse trails. This combination provides bikers of all skill levels with miles of trail options.

  • Camping

    Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area contains five developed campgrounds which are intended to meet the needs of almost any camper visiting the park. Two campgrounds, Bandy Creek (TN) and Blue Heron (KY) are highly developed sites with many amenities while the Alum Ford Campground (KY) offers a limited number of primitive campsites. Two equestrian campgrounds, Bear Creek (KY) and Station Camp (TN) are both highly developed campgrounds operated by concessionaires.

    There are no campground stores. The Bandy Creek Stable does have a small tack store that carries a few items for campers. Be prepared to bring all needed items. The stables sells firewood. Campers may also collect any wood that is down and dead. Ice can be purchased at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center.

  • Climbing

    There are some geologic features that provide exciting rock climbing opportunities.

  • Fishing

    The Big South Fork National River and Recreation (NRRA) has been directed to develop this area's potential for healthy outdoor recreation. Fishing has proven to be a popular recreational activity at Big South Fork. Visitors should be responsible anglers and do their part to preserve the environment and keep the river clean for the continued use of future generations.

  • Hiking

    Hiking in Big South Fork is one of the most popular and rewarding activities within the park. Big South Fork has a large system of trails designed to take visitors away from their vehicle and into the very heart of park. Within the trail system there are a full range of opportunities available, from a short easy hike along the Big South Fork River to long and strenuous multiple day hikes. There is even a section of the John Muir National Recreation Trail which passes through the park.

  • Horseback Riding

    Horseback riding has become one of the most popular activities at Big South Fork. There is a large network of trails through the park.

  • Hunting

    Big South Fork is one of only a few National Park Service units legislated to allow hunting. Popular big game species found within the park are Whitetail Deer, Turkey and Wild Boar. In addition to big game, the area is also rich in small game species such as squirrel, raccoon, rabbit and game birds.

    As a unit of the National Park Service, there are additional regulations which apply to hunting in Big South Fork. Apart from for these, the hunting regulations within the Big South Fork are the same as the respective state in which the hunting is occurring. For those hunting in Tennessee, the Tennessee regulations would apply and for those hunting in Kentucky, the Kentucky regulations.

  • Picnicking

    There are picnic sites throughout the park.

  • Water Sports

    Visitors can swim at their own risk throughout the park.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Some 160 species of birds, migratory and resident have been recorded in Big South Fork in recent years. Black bears can now be found in Big South Fork. The area is home to many 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. Birds of the forest interior dominate the landscape in the Big South Fork.

    The Big South Fork currently has 26 documented species of mussels, five of which are federally listed as endangered (Cumberland Elktoe, Cumberlandian Combshell, Tan Riffle Shell, Little-wing Pearly Mussel, and Cumberland Bean Pearly Mussel). In the southeast, only the Duck River, Clinch and Green Rivers contain this level of diversity, and only two other NPS units in the country have greater diversity.


The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is located in a humid climatic region, typified by mild winters and moist warm to hot summers. Storm systems typically bring heavy rains from December through March which may cause flooding. Summer thunderstorms are common. Winter snowfall occurs intermittently in the area and averages 17 inches per year. Wear comfortable clothing for the season and bring clothing for the possible extremes.

Park Partners

Friends of Big South Fork

Friends of the Big South Fork is a non-profit group of interested citizens formed to support and promote the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area by raising funds to preserve, restore and enhance the park's natural and cultural resources, to provide improved services and facilities for visitors, to increase public awareness and support of the park and to enhance educational and interpretive activities, thus increasing public appreciation and understanding of the park.

(423) 663-4556

Charit Creek Lodge

Charit Creek Lodge, located in the Station Camp Creek drainage offers a full range of amenities including cabin and dormitory rentals, meals, restrooms and showers. Access to the remote lodge is by foot, bike or horse only. Well-maintained hiking and horse trails lead you through interesting and beautiful places on your way to the lodge.

(423) 286-7275



The area is most easily reached by car. Southbound on I-75 take KY 461 south to KY 80, take 80 west to U.S. 27, take 27 south to Oneida and follow TN 297 west into the park. From I-75 northbound, take TN 63 west to U.S. 27, take 27 north to Oneida and follow TN 297 west into the park. From I-40 westbound, exit at U.S. 27, travel north to Oneida and follow TN 297 west into the park. From I-40 eastbound, exit at U.S 127 and travel north to TN 154, take 154 north to TN 297 and follow take 297 east into the park.


The closest commercial airports are in Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky.

Public Transportation

No Public Transportation is available.

Phone Numbers


(423) 569-9778