Most CNF Rec areas in area will open in March or April

Published 8:37 am Friday, March 13, 2020

USDA Forest Service officials have announced the 2020 operating dates for recreation sites in the Cherokee National Forest.

The Cherokee National Forest, covering over 650,000 acres, offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities and seasonal experiences for nearly 3 million yearly visitors it welcomes to the Southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee.

The majority of developed day-use recreation sites providing visitor access to trails, rivers, lakes, remote back-country and target shooting areas, as well as several campgrounds without developed water systems or entrance gates, remain open throughout the year. Highly developed campgrounds and swim areas are routinely closed and winterized from late-fall through mid-spring in response to low visitation, reduced seasonal workforce, and freezing temperatures that damage water and wastewater systems.

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Many campsites in developed campgrounds are available on a first come-first served basis, but some can be reserved in advance. National Forest visitors can go online to the website and select the name of the facility they wish to reserve or call the reservation service at 1-877-444-6777.

As the Forest Service shifts to a more sustainable recreation program, it must meet the reality of increasing deferred maintenance (maintenance backlog) and operational costs. Visitors will see projects across the National Forest to reduce deferred maintenance, as well as investments to improve well-loved sites. In order to sustain these valued opportunities, the Cherokee National Forest, like other National Forests in the region recently have, or may raise fees at some point during the 2020 operating season. These increases were proposed during the 2019 season.

Following are the scheduled 2020 opening dates for Cherokee National Forest recreation sites. Shooting ranges and most boat launches are open year-round.

In the Watauga Ranger District in the Little Oak Campground, the Hemlock and Poplar Loops and Big Oak and Lone Pine Loops and boat ramp will open April 27. Primitive camping only will be open April 6-27.

The Jacobs Creek Campground & Day Use Area will be open April 27 through Oct. 12

In the Iron Mountain, the Backbone Rock Recreation Area for day use pavilion areas will open March 26 and the campground will open April 27.

In the Watauga Lake Area, the Cardens Bluff Campground and Dennis Cove Campground will open April 27; the Shook Branch Swim Area will also open April 27, and the Watauga Point Rec Area, April 6.

In the Roan Highlands, the Carvers Gap Trailhead will open March 16; and in the Unaka Mountains, the Laurels Picnic Area will open March 16.