BANDY CREEK — The National Park Service announced Friday that Bandy Creek Campground and Station Creek Campground in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area will reopen on Wednesday, June 3.
Both campgrounds on the Tennessee side of the national park will reopen at full capacity. However, reservations must be made online at recreation.gov. Drive-up reservations will not be permissible.
Campgrounds on the Kentucky side of the BSF, as well as all visitor centers, will remain closed.
“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount,” said BSF Supt. Niki S. Nicholas. “At Big South Fork, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored.”
“We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners and volunteers,” she added.
The NPS is encouraging visitors to the campgrounds to practice social distancing — particularly in bathroom/shower facilities and other shared spaces.
“The good thing about Bandy Creek, and really all of our campgrounds, is that the campsites are fairly far apart compared to a lot of campgrounds that you find in other parts of the country,” Nicholas told the Independent Herald Friday afternoon.
Campers who have not made reservations will not be able to pull into the campgrounds and set up camp.
“There’ll be no just showing up and paying on-site,” Nicholas said. “We’re trying to reduce the interaction, the exchange of money, and things like that.”
The Big South Fork is anticipating a busy summer as Covid-19 causes families to vacation in new ways — especially ways that avoid the need to fly. With the BSF positioned within a day’s drive of most of the U.S. population — a half-day’s drive for millions — and seen as a quiet alternative to the Great Smoky Mountains, Summer 2020 could be one of the busiest summers the park has ever seen.
“We are looking at tourism trends, and the information we’re getting from various sources is that people need to get out of the house, and want to do things with their family, but getting on airplanes is something that from a number of different perspectives is going to be much more reduced,” Nicholas said. “We’re expecting very high activity for recreation use of the Big South Fork.”
For more on the park’s anticipation of a busy summer season, see the June 4, 2020 print edition of the Independent Herald.