U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest have announced that national forest lands within the corridor between the area known as Oliver Hollow north to Wilbur Dam are temporaily closed to public entry except for through hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The closure is being implemented because of black bear activity in the area.
Oliver Hollow is located on Watauga Lake in Carter County on Oliver Hollow Rd off Highway 321 near Hampton, TN. Wilbur Dam (TVA) is located on the Watauga River off Wilbur Dam Rd and Bishop Hollow Rd in Carter County near Elizabethton, TN. The corridor is within the Cherokee National Forest’s Watauga Ranger District.
Oliver Hollow is a popular dispersed camping and day use area on the western end of Watauga Lake. Bears have recently been frequenting the corridor and Oliver Hollow. The U.S. Forest Service is working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to address the concern.
Natural Resources Management Team Leader for the Watauga Ranger District, Alice Cohen said, “Bears are opportunists and become habituated to campsites and picnic areas where food has been improperly discarded or stored and is easily available. Though naturally shy of people, they learn to associate people with food. Bears then learn to frequent the same areas where they may encounter humans. This is when concerns arise.”
Forest Service officials say that in all outdoor recreation settings, you should always store your food and trash so it does not attract bears and other animals. Food should be properly stored in a vehicle, or hung from a bear pole or tree when in the back country. Trash should be placed in bear-resistant trash cans where available or packed out when you leave. Do not discard watermelons or any other food scraps in picnic areas, shooting ranges or any other recreation site. Doing so can lead to temporary closure of the site if safety becomes a concern due to bear activity. Your cooperation with this and similar temporary closures may help break the cycle of bears returning to the same sites in search of human food, protecting you and the bears.