Big South Fork NRRA Camping Fees Will Increase Effective January 1, 2018

Monday, December 18, 2017

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Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will implement new camping fees beginning January 1, 2018, for both Bandy Creek and Blue Heron campgrounds.

The rate per night for camping has not increased in price since 2007. Fee rates are based on a study of comparable sites in the surrounding area to ensure that increases are appropriate and competitive with current market conditions. Public meeting and comment periods were held with participation from local community members, campground users and local businesses.

"One hundred percent of the camping fees will provide a vital source of revenue directly related to the operation of Big South Fork NRRA campgrounds and the online reservation service,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas. “The funds will support maintenance, ranger operations, and provide essential funding for projects, such as replacing and upgrading all outdated electrical pedestals in the campgrounds as well as installing new food storage lockers.”

Listed below are the updated nightly rates:

Bandy Creek Campground

1. 30-amp electric and water hook-up sites: From $22 to $25
2. 50-amp electric and water hook-up sites: From $22 to $32
3. Non-electric hook-up sites: From $19 to $20
4. Group campsites: From $100 to $125

Blue Heron Campground 1.30-amp electric and water hook-up sites: From $17 to $20

The updated fee rates will take effect on January 1, 2018. Reservations already made in advance on the National Recreation Reservation System will be honored. Campsites can be reserved online at, or by calling 877-444-6777.

Those holding the Senior Pass (for United States residents age 62 and over) and Access Pass (for permanently disabled United States residents) of the "National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series" will receive a 50 percent discount on camping fees.

For more information on the campgrounds in Big South Fork NRRA, go to, or call the park at (423) 286-7275.

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Food and Refuse Storage Requirements Implemented in Cherokee National Forest

Friday, December 15, 2017

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USDA Forest Service officials have implemented a Forest Order for the entire Cherokee National Forest to minimize black bear-human encounters and interactions. The order prohibits possessing or leaving food, bear attractant, or refuse unless it is possessed properly or stored properly. The Order was issued to provide for visitor safety and the conservation of bears. For full news release click here.

In 2007 a similar Forest Order was implemented for the Tellico Ranger District in Monroe County. The result has been a reduction in the number of reported encounters between humans and bears. The new Forest Order applies to the entire Cherokee National Forest, including the Tellico, Ocoee, Unaka and Watauga Ranger Districts.

Many people leave food out in the open or do not dispose of refuse properly. These actions become the source of most bear and human problems. Cherokee National Forest visitors are now required to store unattended food in bear-resistant containers, in a vehicle in solid non-pliable material or suspend food at least 12 feet off the ground.

The black bear symbolizes the wild qualities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Its recovery from greatly reduced numbers throughout the region to its present thriving population is a result of sound management of bears and their habitat. Yet, humans, who often times mean well, are impacting bears unnecessarily by improperly disposing of garbage and leaving food unattended or improperly stored.

Bears are opportunists by nature. They feed on whatever is readily available in the wild, from berries to insects. Bears have a remarkable sense of smell that can lead them to unnatural foods.

Garbage and food odors attract bears to residential areas, dump sites, campsites, and picnic areas.

Once a bear develops a pattern of relying on human food sources it begins to lose its fear of people and may become aggressive. This behavior creates safety concerns for humans and can be fatal for the bear. Bears that frequent inhabited areas may become an easy target for illegal hunting, may be accidentally killed by an automobile, or may suffer from ingesting toxic material. Close encounters between humans and bears usually spell trouble.

Mary Miller, Wildlife Biologist for the Cherokee National Forest said, “With the increasing potential for human and bear interaction and the success we’ve seen with food storage requirements in the Tellico Ranger District, we believe it necessary to implement this Forest Order for the entire Cherokee National Forest.

“Our intent is to address human safety concerns and to provide for the conservation of bears. Similar food storage requirements are already in place in other national forests and state and national parks. Managing the disposal of garbage and storage of food can really make a difference.”

Following are procedures that will help reduce the chances of a close encounter with a bear while on a picnic or camping trip:

Never leave food or trash unattended.

Never cook or store food in or near your tent.

Keep a clean site by properly disposing of garbage including fruit rinds and cores, empty cans or jars and aluminum foil used for grilling or cooking.

Pick up all food scraps around your site.

Wipe down tabletops after each use and before vacating your site.

NEVER feed a bear or other animals.

NEVER approach a bear.

If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, or by banging pans together. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or other secure area.

Keep children close at hand.

Keep pets properly confined to a leash or in a vehicle or camper.

ALWAYS respect bears and admire them from a distance.

Definition of terms in the Cherokee National Forest Food Storage Order:

“Food” means any substance, which is not native to the immediate area, solid or liquid (excluding water, baled hay, or hay cubes without additives), which is or may be eaten or otherwise taken into the body to sustain health or life, provide energy, or promote growth of any person or animal.

“Bear attractant” means any substance having an odor that may attract bears including food, soft drinks, cooking grease, alcoholic beverages, canned foods, pet foods, processed livestock feed and grains, personal hygiene products, and empty food and beverage containers.

“Refuse” means any discarded material or solid waste.

“Possessed properly” means:

1.Possessed or attended by a person(s) who is under immediate control of food, attractant or refuse. The person(s) must be physically present within 100 feet and in plain sight and have the ability to immediately attend to and store such items properly.

“Stored properly” means:

1. Stored or disposed of in a bear-resistant container or trash receptacle which is a securable container constructed of solid non-pliable material capable of withstanding 200 foot-pounds of energy. When secured and under stress the container will not have any cracks, openings, or hinges that would allow a bear to gain entry by biting or pulling with its claws. Wood containers are not considered bear resistant unless they are reinforced with metal. Most coolers are not considered bear resistant, or

2. Stored in a closed hard top motor vehicle or travel trailer constructed of solid, non-pliable material that, when secured, will have no openings, hinges, lids, or coverings that would allow a bear to gain entry by breaking, bending, tearing, biting, or pulling with its claws (any windows in the vehicle must be closed), or

3. Suspended at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from limbs, or

d. Stored within a hard-sided residence, building, or storage container subject to the terms and conditions of a special-use authorization or operating plan, or

e. Stored by other methods approved in a permit issued by the Forest Supervisor.

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Tips Sought for Recent Fire at Historic Cabins in Elkmont

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) are seeking witnesses who may have information about a recent human-caused fire that damaged cabins in the Elkmont Historic District of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

US Park Rangers responded to an initial report of the fire at about 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. The damaged cabins are located in the area of the park known as Daisy Town and are among those closed to the public and slated for rehabilitation.

This investigation is ongoing and no additional details are available at this time. Please contact us if you have information that could help investigators, or if you may have observed activity leading to this human-caused fire during the early morning hours of November 29. You don't have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know:

• CALL or TEXT the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009

• ONLINE at and click “Submit a Tip”


• MESSAGE on Facebook @InvestigativeServicesNPS or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS

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41st Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces the 41st annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration scheduled on Saturday, December 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public.

The festival will include old-time mountain music, traditional shape note singing, mountain craft demonstrations, and a living history walk. Visitors can also experience these traditions through hands-on activities such as make-and-take craft stations. Hot apple cider will also be served throughout the day.

“Around Christmas time, people gathered in churches, homes, and schools where they celebrated the holiday through music, storytelling, and crafts,” said North District Resource Education Supervisor Stephanie Sutton. “The Festival of Christmas Past allows us to pause and remember some of these traditions.”

The popular Christmas Memories Walk will be held at 11:00 a.m. Costumed interpreters will lead a short walk from the visitor center and talk about life in the mountains during the holidays. Through this living history program, visitors will experience the spirit of the season in the mountains during the early days.

The full schedule of events at Sugarlands Visitor Center includes:

 9:30 Shape Note Singing
11:00 Old-time mountain music with Lost Mill
11:00 Memories Walk
12:00 Old-time mountain music with Boogertown Gap
 1:00 Smoky Mountain Historical Society
 2:00 Appalachian Christmas Music and Storytelling – NPS Staff

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