Hunters, mountain bikers, horseback riders, paddlers and backpackers enjoy roughing it in the backcountry of Big South Fork. Please help protect the environment and enhance the backcountry experience for everybody by using low impact techniques and observing all regulations.
Backcountry permits are required. You may obtain a permit from the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, the Blue Heron Interpretive Center, and online. For information and permit fees please call (423) 286-7275. Keep your permit with you while camping.
Campfires are allowed unless current conditions dictate that a temporary restriction be enforced. Campfires are not allowed under arches, rock shelters, or near historical structures. Whenever possible, use an existing fire ring. Never leave your fire unattended and make certain that it is completely out before leaving it. Only dead and down trees may be used for firewood. Dead standing trees provide habitat for a variety of animal, insect, and bird species and must be left standing. The use of chainsaws to cut wood is prohibited.
The regulations below apply to camping in the backcountry. Camping is not permitted within 100 feet of the center line of Bandy Creek Access Road, Tennessee State Highway 297 (Leatherwood Ford Road), Blue Heron Access Road (Mine 18 Road), and the Blue Heron Overlook Road.
Camping is not allowed in the developed areas. Camping is allowed near the developed parking areas when the campsite is at least 200 feet from the edge of the parking area and IS NOT VISIBLE from the parking area. As of May 1, 1991, the following are considered developed areas: Yahoo Falls, Alum Ford, Yamacraw, Blue Heron Overlooks, Blue Heron and access areas along river, East Rim Overlook, Leatherwood Ford, West Entrance, Charit Creek, Twin Arches, Burnt Mill Bridge, Peters Bridge, Bear Creek Overlook, Brewster Bridge, and Honey Creek Overlook.
Camping is strictly prohibited within 25 feet of any cave, cemetery, grave site, historic site/structure, rock shelter, rim of the gorge, trail, roadway, or any other specified location identified by a "No Camping" sign.
Pending development and approval of a river management plan, the Superintendent has designated the river flood plain as open to camping following the backcountry guidelines. The Big South Fork is a whitewater river. KNOW YOUR SKILL LEVEL. Be aware that the river can rise quickly! River trails and camping areas may become flooded.
Always pack out whatever you bring in. Keep a clean campsite. Leave your backcountry camp in better shape than when you arrived.
Did You Know?
In the 1960's Congress requested the Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of damming the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River just above the Devils Jump Rapid to create another reservoir. Had that happened Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area would never have existed.