Your Safety

Devils Jump Rapid
Devils Jumps Rapids, a Class III - IV whitewater rapids located in the Kentucky portion of Big South Fork.

We hope your visit to Big South Fork will be a safe and memorable experience. You can help ensure that your visit is safe by being aware of the potential hazards involved and observing some basic safety precautions.

Hypothermia, the "progressive physical collapse and reduced mental capacity resulting from the chilling of the inner core of the human body," can occur even at temperatures above freezing. Temperatures can drop rapidly. Exposure to frigid bodies of water and sudden mountain storms can turn a pleasant day into a bitterly cold and life-threatening experience. People in poor physical condition or who are exhausted are particularly at risk.

Preventing Hypothermia

  • Avoid hypothermia by using water-resistant clothing before you become wet.
  • Wear clothing that wicks moisture away.
  • Minimize wind exposure and if your clothes become wet, replace them.
  • Avoid sweating by dressing in layers, rather than in a single bulky garment.
  • Pack a sweater, warm hat, and raingear for any hike.
The Warning Signs: Uncontrolled shivering, slow or slurred speech, memory lapses and incoherence, lack of coordination such as immobile or fumbling hands, stumbling, a lurching gait, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

Immediate Treatment
  • Seek shelter from weather and get the victim into dry clothes.
  • Give warm non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Build a fire and keep victim awake.
  • Strip victim and yourself, and get into sleeping bag making skin-to-skin contact.
  • If victim is semi-conscious or worse, get professional help immediately.
Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is free-flowing with no dam controls. Check the river gauge readings before your river trip. Heavy rains can cause flooding and make river use dangerous. Always use a personal flotation device when on the river.

Swimmers in the Big South Fork will find hazards throughout the park's waters. Holes, submerged rocks, tricky currents and ledges which can entrap feet and legs. It is recommended that swimmers use the Bandy Creek pool which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day and is staffed with lifeguards.

If you do choose to swim in the river, be extremely careful, do not swim alone and always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) no matter how good a swimmer you think you are.

Water in Big South Fork may contain harmful parasites (such as giardia, which causes a severe intestinal infection), making it unfit for drinking unless properly treated. It is recommended that all drinking water be boiled for two minutes. Water-purification tablets or a water-purification filter may be used, however, boiling is recommended treatment.
Cooperhead snake
Cooperhead snakes are one of two poisonous snakes found in Big South Fork.

James Henderson, Gulf South Research Corp.

Be alert for poisonous snakes. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are generally found on land but may sometimes be seen in the water. Use ordinary precautions, wear shoes and always carry a flashlight after dusk. If you see a snake, leave it alone!

Ticks are common throughout the recreation area; a proportion of them carry Lyme Disease. This is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick. The longer that an infected tick feeds on you, the more likely you'll be to catch "Lyme."
  • Use tick repellents with DEET, according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Wear light colored clothing, long sleeves, and long pants with socks tucked into pants.
  • Do frequent "tick checks" of yourself and any children with you.
  • Always check for ticks after any outdoor activities.

Lyme Disease is a serious illness that can go undiagnosed if the affected person is not alert to its causes and symptoms. Not all tick bites will result in the characteristic skin blotch. If you find a tick engorged tick attached to you, remove the tick and clean the bite site.

Poison ivy grows plentifully along roadsides, trails and the edges of fields and parking lots, as a vine or a low shrub. The leaves are red in early spring, shiny green in summer, and an attractive red or orange in the fall. Each leaf consists of three leaflets.
  • Most people are sensitive in varying degrees to the sap of this plant, which makes skin itch, blister, and swell.
  • Avoid contact with all parts of the plant. If exposed, wash the affected skin with soap and water as soon as possible. It takes several minutes for the sap to penetrate the skin.
  • Remember: Leaves of three, let them be!

Do not burn campfire "deadwood" that is entangled with poison ivy leaves or vines. Soot from the fire can carry the sap through the air, and cause serious distress in the eyes, nose, and throat.

Bears do exist in Big South Fork. For your safety put away all food and food items such as cooking utensils, grills, and coolers ANYTIME your campsite is unattended and at night. Bear-proof boxes are currently located throughout the campgrounds of Bandy Creek, Blue Heron and Alum Ford.

In the backcountry you should be prepared to hang your food out of the bear's reach. Click here for more information.

Firewood Ban is in effect for the park. Only firewood from the surrounding counties of Scott, Morgan, Pickett, and Fentress in Tennessee and McCreary in Kentucky can be brought into the park. Firewood is for sale or you may use dead and down wood.

There is a 13% grade for an approximate 5 mile stretch on Highway 297 between Bandy Creek Road on the west of the river and Headquarters on the east side. This is called the gorge. Use caution when traveling with recreational campers or horse trailers.


You may also call the Bandy Creek Visitor Center 423-286-7275 in Tennessee or the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-5073 and 376-3787 in Kentucky.

The Scott County Sheriff's Office can be contacted at 423-663-2245.

Last updated: June 21, 2017

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Mailing Address:

4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida, TN 37841


(423) 569-9778

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