Cherokee National Forest to re-open developed recreation sites

Published 2:47 pm Friday, May 15, 2020

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The Cherokee National Forest will reopen developed recreation sites beginning May 15 using a site-by-site approach, including assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety of recreation areas. Expect re-openings to not be quick or permanent.
Some day-use sites, such as shooting ranges, picnic areas and small campgrounds, are currently scheduled to reopen on May 15. Additional sites and campgrounds are scheduled to open May 24. Most remaining campgrounds will likely open the first week of June. Projected opening dates may vary depending on circumstances, and it may be necessary to not open or to close areas again if conditions change.
Most boat launches, trails and the general forest area, including river corridors, have remained open to hiking, biking, boating, dispersed camping, hunting, fishing, etc.
“Closing any site for any reason is not one we take lightly, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority. We are approaching this phased re-opening with safety in mind,” said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris.“We are looking forward to seeing our recreation sites being enjoyed by the people from the communities we serve.”
Scheduled to re-open June 1 in the Watauga Lake Area are the Cardens Bluff Campground and the Dennis Cove Campground. The Shook Branch Swim Area and Watauga Point Recreation Area will open May 15 as will the Carvers Gap Trailhead, Laurels Picnic Area, and Pond Mountain and Jacobs Creek Shooting Ranges. Also, the Backbone Rock Recreation Area will open May 15, but the campground will not open until June 1.
Individuals with paid reservations starting May 15 that may experience a cancellation will be contacted by email. Full refunds will automatically be processed by with no cancellation fees. Individuals should not attempt to contact Recreation.govto request a refund, as that could lead to a cancellation fee charge. Reservations made farther into the future will remain valid, unless circumstances demand further closures.
The Forest Service’s highest priority is ensuring the safety of the public and their employees while supporting mission critical functions. Please review current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state guidelines for social distancing and cloth face coverings.
For information on the projected schedule of Cherokee National Forest recreation site opening dates and locations by Ranger District, please visit or call the Ocoee Ranger District: 423-338-3300; Tellico Ranger District: 423-397-8455; Watauga Ranger District: 423-735-1500; Unaka Ranger District: 423-638-4109; Forest Supervisor’s Office: 423-476-9700.

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