Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Big South Fork visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 40 minutes which we have divided into 29 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections 1 through 21 cover the front of the brochure and include information regarding the geological, cultural, natural, and recreational assets. Sections 22 through 29 cover the back of the brochure which consists of the map and some information about safety. We hope you enjoy your visit with us. 

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OVERVIEW: Big South Fork

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, located in southeastern Kentucky and north central Tennessee, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The park encompasses just less than 125,000 acres of rugged terrain within the Cumberland Plateau. The area boasts 90 miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historical features and was established to provide visitors with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities such as rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, hunting, fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

A 1-inch-wide black band, similar to other National Park Service brochures, extends vertically across the top of the page. In the upper left corner inside the black band is large white text that reads: "Big South Fork," and then towards the right side in smaller white text reads: "Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area", "Kentucky and Tennessee", "National Park Service," then "U.S. Department of the Interior." A brown, green, and white National Park Service arrowhead logo appears at far right.

The opened brochure is portrayed in a portrait fashion with a background image of Angel Falls Overlook that fades into a solid beige color. There are five sections of various cultural and natural objects with text in English as well as photos with captions. A thin black band expands across the very bottom of the brochure to finish the layout.

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IMAGE: Angel Falls Gorge

DESCRIPTION:

The river flows north between two mountains with lush green trees sloping upwards on both sides. A hazy blue-green mist can be seen in the far distance where the river disappears around the bend. Closer to the front of the image and to the right is a rock wall that has some indentations however it is almost flat. A little green hardy bush hangs over the edge on the top of a small ledge that forms at the end of the cliff. The cliff faces east and has some gray and orange coloration from silt and mud. Various green tree tops span below the cliff giving an indication that the cliff is at least twice the height of the tallest tree. There is a small ledge in the bottom left corner that indicates the photo was taken while standing on top of an overlook to the side of the cliff.  This photo is used as the background of the front side of the park brochure. Photo was taken by Chuck Summers. 

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

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TEXT: A deeply carved plateau

The Big South Fork River begins in Tennessee at the confluence of the Clear Fork and New rivers, flows north through a spectacular 600-foot-deep gorge, enters Kentucky, and empties into the Cumberland River. This land embraces the wildest and most rugged territory on the Cumberland Plateau. Carved over millennia by water flowing over sandstone and shale, the plateau today is a network of hills and hollows, rocky ridges, and river valleys. Rock shelters bear evidence of thousands of years of human habitation, and remnants of homesteads and cemeteries dot the landscape.

The gorge slowly widens northward, revealing river benches, floodplains, and bottomlands. Many streams drop suddenly from the plateau’s surface into deeply entrenched valleys. The bottom of the gorge ranges from flat and sandy, almost like a beach, to huge boulders that force the river into violent stretches of white water.

Plateau rivers sustain some of the most varied fish and freshwater mussel species in the nation. Ravines and hollows are among the richest wildflower areas in the South.

Nationally significant for its free-flowing rivers, its deep gorge, and variety of plants and animals, the area captured the attention of the U.S. Congress in the 1970s. In 1974 Congress authorized Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, the first to be designated as both a national river and a national recreation area. This insightful blend of park management—protecting an area with few roads and no development while providing visitors with recreational opportunities—preserves this park for you and future generations.

Layer upon layers: Rocks on the Cumberland Plateau were born as sediments deposited by a shallow sea millions of years ago. The sediments built up gradually in horizontal layers thousands of feet thick and, crushed by their own weight, hardened into limestone, shale, coal, and sandstone, topped by a rocky conglomerate—a natural concrete.

When the region uplifted, erosion began shaping a new landscape. Streams cutting into the sandstone and other layers formed gorges, arches, cliffs, and rock shelters. You can see layers of shale, coal, sandstone, and conglomerate at Leatherwood Ford.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Making the mountains

IMAGE 1 of 5: Ocean plate map

DESCRIPTION:

This is an illustration with the light and dark grey-filled outline of the eastern half of the United States against a pale orange background which continues below and becomes more vivid as it blends into another picture of the Plateau horizon. There are ridges that indicate a mountainous terrain with peaks that stretch from the upper part of the outline going diagonally southwest in a slight wave pattern. Black, all capital lettered text "Appalachian Mountains" is written along the peaks. A long, thin black line with an arrow at the end and black lettered text "Big South Fork" at the top right side points towards the north side of the bottom part of the peaks. Along the edge of the United States outline is an light orange arrow that is pointing northwest with black lettered text "Ocean Plates Collide". This gives the sense that the Appalachian Mountains were squished upwards due to two plates pushing together with nowhere else to go but up. 

CREDIT:

NPS

RELATED TEXT:

The Appalachian Mountains are old, even in geologic terms. They formed over millions of years as continental and ocean plates collided, separated, and collided again. Extensive erosion followed each series of mountain building, scouring gigantic mountains into mere nubs. Each time the plates collided, masses of rock pushed up and moved westward.

Today the Appalachians—formed under relentless heat and pressure—are a mosaic of uplifted plateaus, parallel ridges and valleys, and layers of sedimentary and igneous (volcanic) rock. 

IMAGE 2 of 5: Angel Falls at dusk

DESCRIPTION:

This image is the bottom half of the illustration of the how the Appalachian Mountains were formed. The outline of a tree with a lot of leaves on the edge of a tall cliff on the left side of the picture is outlined against a purplish- orange and red horizon. Right below the horizon is above a straight mountain range in the distance that has white lettered text "Plateau Horizon". A river flows in the center of the image reflecting the sky while dark slopes extend up on both sides. The water in the river goes from smooth to ripples as it flows beyond a line of rocks making this one of the rapids.  The slope on the right side has white lettered text "Erosion-carved gorges". A slight fog rises above the river as it goes around the bend. Dark purple silhouettes of more trees can be seen near the edge of the river below the cliff. Photo is credited to Chuck Summers.


CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

IMAGE 3 of 5: Plateaus

DESCRIPTION:

This is one of three circular images that illustrates terrain patterns. This one shows a dark gray and light gray pattern that looks like lightning but it is where water runs off the smooth slopes of the mountains. The lines are like tree branches that run off one main wriggly line. White, all caps text "Plateaus" is right below the circular image. 

CAPTION:

Plateaus

RELATED TEXT:

The Cumberland Plateau lies in the western Appalachian Mountains. This large tableland, formed over time by continental collisions, rises over 1,000 feet above the surrounding region. Weather-resistant sandstone tops the plateau giving it a flat horizon, while layers of soft shale erode to form sheer cliffs and steep-walled gorges. 

IMAGE 4 of 5: Hills and hollows

DESCRIPTION:

This is the second of the circular images that illustrates terrain patterns. This image shows the terrain as having more ridges and narrow valleys. The ridges are shown in white and become a darker color of gray as it descends down to the valley. The pattern resembles a fern with one long ridge and several ridges that fork off from it in a wavy fashion. 

CAPTION:

Hills and hollows.

RELATED TEXT:

Hills and Hollows: The plateau’s flat surface causes streams to spread out at any angle like tree roots. Water seeping through cracks scours out softer rock, leaving behind hills and carving out hollows. 

IMAGE 5 of 5: Ridges and valleys

DESCRIPTION:

This is the third of the circular images that illustrates terrain patterns. There is a mix of are long white colored straight ridges running from northeast to southwest that are stretched across a few winding rivers between them. White coloration indicates the highest point which are the ridges with dark gray being the valleys which are wide and long.

CAPTION:

Ridges and valleys.

RELATED TEXT:

Ridges and valleys: This region features long, even-crested mountain ridges alternating with long, continuous river valleys. Looking much like nature’s corduroy, the ridges and valleys run northeast-to-southwest for hundreds of miles.


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IMAGE and TEXT: People of the Cumberland plateau

IMAGE 1 of 14: Cherokee Family

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white photo with a small log cabin on the left half that has one opening in the front middle with no door. Around the right side of the cabin is a column of logs that looks similar to the rock chimney next to it that spans up to meet the highest point of the wood-shingled roof. There are shrubs and trees close to the cabin however the front yard is a clear. Further off to the right of the cabin is a young Indian girl in a long sleeved white dress that touches the ground. She is holding onto a long paddle like device as she looks at the top of the round stump-like container in which the paddle is inserted. There is another person standing beyond the girl that appears to be wearing a worn shirt but their legs are not shown. In the front of the open doorway of the cabin is another young girl wearing the same dress but holding a child up on her left shoulder. She is facing the girl working with the paddle like stick. The caption of the photo is "A Cherokee family in the 1880s watches a girl prepare cornmeal."


CAPTION:

A Cherokee family in the 1880s watches a girl prepare cornmeal. 

CREDIT:

Smithsonian Institution

IMAGE 2 of 14: Paleo-Indians

DESCRIPTION:

This is a circular illustration of Paleo-Indians working outside. There are three woman and a little child working around an animal hide while a man walks towards the camp with game on his back ready for skinning. There are four other Indians working with sticks around a fire in the front of the picture. Off in the far distance is a dog-like animal walking across the field.  

CAPTION:

Paleo-Indians. 

CREDIT:

Frank Mcclung Museum/Greg Harlin Artist

IMAGE 3 of 14: Pottery

DESCRIPTION:

This is a golden colored shell like piece of pottery that has been broken and put back together however there are some pieces missing. Ridges form across the surface. The shape is almost like an arrowhead that is wide at the top and forming a tip at the bottom.

CAPTION:

Woodland period pottery. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 4 of 14: Cherokee

DESCRIPTION:

This is a rustic colored image of a woman and child working on pottery. The little girl has dark hair with a band holding back the bangs. She is wearing a little dress and holding a small pot. She has a smile on her face as she stands next to a table that has a few more pots. The woman is wearing an apron over her dress and it sitting down working on a pot in her lap. She is looking down at the pot with a happy smile. She has straight hair pulled back from her face. 

CAPTION:

Cherokee.

CREDIT:

University of North Carolina

IMAGE 5 of 14: Prehistory

DESCRIPTION:

This is a color drawing of a camp of several dome shaped huts that appear to has grass roofs. There are Indian people working throughout the scene. One woman is working in a green garden while another man wearing a beige loin cloth is raking. In the foreground is a circle of women working while sitting or kneeling on the ground. They all seem to be working on baskets. There is a small child sitting beside one woman that has dark hair that hangs just below the ears. All of the women have their hair pulled up and do not have anything on above their waist line.

CAPTION:

Paleo-Indian period- 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Archaic period- 10,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Woodland period- 3,000 to 1,000 years ago.

Mississippian period- 1,000 to 400 years ago. 

CREDIT:

Frank Mcclung Museum/Greg Harlin Artist

IMAGE 6 of 14: Clovis stone points

DESCRIPTION:

There are three triangular shaped arrowheads shown with carved edges and dark shiny coloration. The first one is more long and pointed whereas the second and third one are a little wider in the middle. All of the ends have a half-moon shaped arch where the arrowhead is inserted into wood to make an arrow. 

CAPTION:

The Paleo-Indian period is characterized by long fluted Clovis stone points. 

CREDIT:

Frank Mcclung Museum

IMAGE 7 of 14: Shed

DESCRIPTION:

This is a rustic-red and beige photo of a barn with roof pointed at the very center of the picture. There are flat roofs that expand out from both sides to form an open room. One side has a wooden gate that is latched to the far right. There are slats of wood boards that appear to stand side by side on the other end of the barn. Some white chickens are pecking the hay-strewn ground not far from the little building that sits directly in front of the barn. It has a square opening just below a pointed roof. A tall tree can be seen towering over the barn in the background. The sky is plain and calm. 

CAPTION:

Early settlers struggled to survive in this isolated country. 

CREDIT:

B. Howell

IMAGE 8 of 14: Iron hoe

DESCRIPTION:

This is a stone tool that has a circular ring-like handle at the top that connects to the flat curved surface with a V shaped pattern. Part of the surface is broken off. There are specks of white, black and gray coloration on the hoe. 

CAPTION:

Trade items like this iron hoe changed traditional Cherokee culture. 

CREDIT:

Frank Mcclung Museum

IMAGE 9 of 14: Logging

DESCRIPTION:

This is a black and white photo with a man wearing overalls and hat using a long pole to push and guide a log that is chained to a beam above. The sun is shining on him as he stands on top of several other long logs stacked below. There are many trees in the background with their leaves. 

CAPTION:

The early 1900s witnessed heavy logging; by the 1940s most marketable timber was gone. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 10 of 14: Stearns Coal and Lumber Company

DESCRIPTION:

This is a view from the sky of the town with several buildings that line the side of a river that flows through the center. A long ridge with cliffs stands in the background. There are some train tracks and bridges visible in the town below. 

CAPTION:

Stearns Coal and Lumber Company opened its first coal mine and company town at Barthell in 1902.

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 11 of 14: Coal

DESCRIPTION:

This black and white photo shows a pile of giant blocks of coal with a man on each side above shoveling and moving more from a rail car. Both men are wearing long sleeved overalls and hats. They appear tired from the laborious work. Behind the rail car is another man sorting through its contents.

CAPTION:

Workers at Blue Heron sort coal in the 1950s

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 12 of 14: Coal mine

DESCRIPTION:

A young man sits on the right edge of a rail car that is hauling several other rail cars full of coal. He is wearing a coat and toboggan. He has a tired look on his face as he holds on. In the background is an arch over an opening into the ground where the tracks run. The hillside next to the opening has a few trees on its banks. 

CAPTION:

A motor car pulls loaded trams out of the mine. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 13 of 14: Gas wells

DESCRIPTION:

This is a black and white photo of a long metal beam that is pivoted at the top of a triangular shaped support with a motor on the right side. There is a metal line that joins the end of the beam on the very left side. There are metal pipes near the line with some gases shown. Trees line the background with a field of grass nearby. 

CAPTION:

In the 1970s over 300 oil and gas wells operated in the park; many are still in production. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 14 of 14: Children

DESCRIPTION:

This is a black and white photo of three girls and one boy in a wooden canoe floating down a river. The shirtless boy is standing in the back of the boat with a long paddle while the girls sit in the front . The sun is shining on the water and the trees line the other side of the river in the background. 

CAPTION:

Children in the 1950s made their own fun-boating, swimming and posing for the camera. 

CREDIT: 

NPS

RELATED TEXT:

For centuries Indians traversed the plateau and plied its rivers, hunting, fishing, and gathering food (see chart at right). They camped in rock shelters, leaving their stories in the traces of bone tools and spear points that archeologists study today. From 1,000 to 3,000 years ago Woodland Indians lived longer in one place, allowing them to begin crafting pottery (below). By 1000 to 1600, Mississippian Indians built farming communities in river valleys, developed new strains of corn, squash, and beans, and supplemented their diet with deer, bear, and other animals from the plateau. In the 1700s Shawnee and Cherokee hunted here, and by 1805 the Cherokee ceded the land to the U.S. government.

In the early 1800s American settlers of Scotch-Irish heritage worked subsistence farms. People gathered at stores, one-room schools, and churches to socialize and share ideas. But life was hard, as indicated by place names like No Business and Difficulty. In the 1900s the plateau witnessed coal mining, logging, and other exploitation, including drilling for gas and oil. Companies built railroads and mining towns like Blue Heron, and workers flooded in. By the

1960s, after extracting most of the local resources, the companies pulled out. Without work, many people moved away too. Fortunes changed in 1974 with the creation of the national river—recreational activities brought new life to the region.





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IMAGES and TEXT: Appreciating local plants and animals

IMAGE 1 of 6: Turkey

DESCRIPTION:

Large breasted turkey with a bright red neck spreads its dark brown tipped tail feathers as it walks around. The chest has feathers that appear to be bright green and red. The wings are striped. Brown and green grass surround the bird along with blurred background of light brown. The time of year is late fall.

CAPTION:

Wild turkey. 

CREDIT:

Steve and Dave Maslowski

IMAGE 2 of 6: Mushroom

DESCRIPTION:

A flat topped saucer like white mushroom stands over a smaller mushroom with a domed top. There are little brown specks on both tops as well as along the trucks. Both mushrooms are standing in dark brown rich soil among another green plant.  

CAPTION:

Aminita muscaria.

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

IMAGE 3 of 6: Fawn

DESCRIPTION:

A tiny baby deer lies in a fetal position in tall green grass. The fawn has multiple white spots along its back and has big eyes. 

CAPTION:

White-tailed deer fawn. 

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

IMAGE 4 of 6: Flower

DESCRIPTION:

A yellow bowl-like flower hangs from three curly long green and brown leaves with a large triangular shaped leaf at the top.

CAPTION:

Yellow lady's slipper. 

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

IMAGE 5 of 6: Cub

DESCRIPTION:

A little bear wraps itself around a gray trunk of a tree as it climbs. The cub has a long nose with some tan coloring. It is looking to the left of the photo as if it is looking for its mother.

CAPTION:

Black bear cub.

CREDIT:

Rolf Hicker

IMAGE 6 of 6: Flower

DESCRIPTION:

Pink and white star shaped flowers are clustered among some unopened bright pink flowers. Green leaves fill the background.  

CAPTION:

Mountain laurel.

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

RELATED TEXT:

Are you curious? Do you have a notebook, a camera? Come to Big South Fork, and you’ll discover an amazing diversity of plants and animals. In spring, yellow lady’s slippers grow in the sandy soil on the floodplains of creeks. Virginia bluebells poke shoots through the earth along river banks, opening their blue flowers to the sun. Mountain laurel thrives in the acidic soil, producing clusters of pink and white blossoms. Not to be outdone by these colorful plants, animals in Big South Fork also put on a show. Wild turkeys peck in abandoned fields, and strutting toms establish domination over their territory. White-tailed deer give birth to spotted fawns. Shy American black bears, reintroduced in the mid-1990s, are increasing in number. Over 160 species of birds are recorded here, both year-round residents and migratory, including woodpeckers, chickadees, warblers, and owls.

River Prairies? Mention prairies and most people imagine landscapes with waving grasses, wildflowers, and a lone buffalo. But a rare prairie occurs at Big South Fork—the largest concentration of cobble bar plant communities in existence. In river prairies, plants cling to gravel (cobble) bars and expanses of bedrock. Western prairies are sustained by fire, but here in the river gorges of the Cumberland Plateau the driving force is water. Floods wash over these habitats, scouring out species not adapted to disturbance. Grasses, herbs, and some shrubs survive these punishing conditions, including the endangered Cumberland rosemary and Virginia spirea.



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IMAGE and TEXT: Fresh water mussels

DESCRIPTION: 

A pile of mussel shells lay near sand. All of them have a shine like they are still wet. They have striping patterns of brown and black with beige and yellow coloration. They are mostly in a fan-like shape with a bulging connection point. There white text on a black background that says "bars, sucking in and filtering water for nutrients. Sensitive to water quality, they are bellwethers of aquatic ecosystem health."

CREDIT:

Tim Lindenbaum

RELATED TEXT:

Is there a future for freshwater mussels? Big South Fork is one of the last refuges for freshwater mussles in this watershed. Twenty-six species live here;seven are endangered. These mussels are sedentary, long-lived pearly mollusks that burrow into gravel bars, sucking in and filtering water for nutrients. Sensitive to water qauilty, they are bell wethers of aqautic ecosystem health. 

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IMAGES and TEXT: Life of the river

IMAGE 1 of 5: Heron

DESCRIPTION:

Sun shines on the back of a white, bluish gray feathered heron as it walks between a light gray log and green grasses that line the shore of a waterway. 

CAPTION:

Great blue heron. 

CREDIT:

Steven Pinker

IMAGE 2 of 5: Otter

DESCRIPTION:

The shiny brown fuzzy coat of the otter is highlighted in sunlight as it looks to the horizon with one paw held up and standing on the other. Beneath is a log with no bark. The background has rippling bluish gray water reflecting the light of the sky.

CAPTION:

River otter.

CREDIT:

Melissa Dowland

IMAGE 3 of 5: Bean mussel

DESCRIPTION:

This mussel shell is shaped like an oblong egg. It has a lot of white coloration around the part that connects the two halves of the shell. It goes from dark brown to light brown to the edge of the shell.

CAPTION:

Cumberland bean mussel. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 4 of 5: Pocketbook mussel

DESCRIPTION:

This mussel shell is more roundish and is light golden brown. It has very little white around the top. There are faint lines across the shell and straight up and down the shell. 

CAPTION:

Pocketbook mussel. 

CREDIT:

NPS

IMAGE 5 of 5: Elktoe mussel

DESCRIPTION:

This mussel shell is mostly reddish brown all over with striations. It is oblong and looks like a hoof of a horse.

CAPTION:

Cumberland elktoe mussel. 

CREDIT:

NPS

RELATED TEXT: 

The aquatic systems of Big South Fork—nearly destroyed by pollution from unregulated mining and logging in the early to mid-1900s—are recovering under the park’s protection. The park boasts over 138 miles of fishing streams and is home to over 60 species of fish, including largemouth bass. But is the river completely healthy? Freshwater mussels may tell us; they play an important role in the food chain for wildlife like the great blue heron and river otter. But many freshwater mussels are declining. National Park Service staff works hard to restore the river’s health. With your help and public support this watershed can again achieve world-class status.


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IMAGE: Christmas Fern

DESCRIPTION: 

This is an illustration outline of a Christmas Fern with a dark brown color against a pale beige background. There is one long stem shown with round, oblong leaves alternating from the sides of the stem. The leaves start small at the top of the stem and end up longer at the bottom. Black, all capital text "Enjoying Big South Fork" is right below the image and serves as the header for the paragraph below starting with black text "Planning your visit" that is next to another column of text that starts with "Stearns Depot Visitor Center".

CAPTION:

Christma fern.

CREDIT:

NPS

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IMAGE: Largemouth bass

DESCRIPTION: 

This is a line drawing in dark brown against a pale beige background showing the side of a fish from the top of the mouth to just past the gills. There is a stringy bait with spinners hooked into the mouth of the fish. The fish has a big eye near the top of his head and lots of scales that overlap into a feathery pattern among the breathing gills.  There is bold black all caps text "Largemouth Bass" at the bottom center of the photo. Image is copyrighted by Michael Halbert  

CAPTION:

Largemouth bass. 

CREDIT:

NPS

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TEXT: Planning your visit

Start at a visitor center for information, maps, exhibits, and a bookstore. The free park newspaper Big South Fork Visitor Guide has up-to-date details on activities, camping and horse facilities, safety, and regulations, plus articles of local interest. Contact the park about programs, fees, and permits, or visit www.nps.gov/biso.

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TEXT: Visitor centers

Bandy Creek Visitor Center, 15 miles west of Oneida, Tenn., is open daily except December 25; hours vary seasonally. 423-286-7275.

Stearns Depot Visitor Center, Stearns, Ky., is open daily May through October, seasonally the rest of the year; hours vary. 606-376-5073.

Big South Fork Scenic Railway (operates seasonally) runs from Stearns Depot to the Blue Heron Mining Community. 606-376-5330.

Blue Heron Mining Community, in Kentucky off KY 742, has an outdoor museum that tells the 25-year coal-mining story with exhibits, structures, and audio programs. It is open year-round; rangers are available April through October. 606-376-3787.


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TEXT: Camping, lodging, food, services

The park has developed campgrounds, horse campgrounds, backcountry lodging, and backcountry camping (permits required). Neighboring communities offer lodging, food, and services. 


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TEXT: Hiking, Horses, Trail Blazes

Big South Fork has hundreds of miles of trails. Colored blazes at trailheads indicate authorized use: red for horse and wagon, green for hiking, blue for mountain bikes, and orange for multi-use.
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TEXT: On the river

The Big South Fork and its tributaries wind through 90 miles of scenic gorges, cliffs, and valleys, and pass by historic features. Contact the park or visit our website for details on river levels, descriptions, and access points.

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TEXT: Arches, waterfalls, overlooks

The region abounds in arches, waterfalls, rockshelters, and overlooks. You can drive to many sites, but some require hiking or riding. Yahoo Falls is Kentucky’s tallest, spilling water 113 feet to a pool below. Twin Arches form the largest sandstone arch complex in the East.

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TEXT: Stewardship

Big South Fork strives to protect the river, its watershed, and its cultural features. Everyone has a  stake in this stewardship—please help us preserve the park for future generations. All plants, animals, rocks, and historic and archeological sites are protected by federal law. Report suspicious behavior (anonymously). Call the Resource Protection Hotline: 423-569-7301.

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IMAGES: Enjoying Big South Fork

IMAGE 1 of 8: Biking

DESCRIPTION:

This is an action photo of a mountain biker wearing a blue helmet, blue and green shirt, and black biking shorts riding past a rock shelter that stands as high as some nearby trees. The sky is gray and the trees do not have leaves. There is another rider following not far in the background along the brown dirt trail.

CAPTION:

Mountain biking.

CREDIT:

Big South Fork Bicycle Club

IMAGE 2 of 8: Relaxing

DESCRIPTION:

A young girl wearing a bright yellow jacket and blue jeans is sitting on a boulder in the blue rippling waters of the river beside her grandfather and grandmother. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. There are multi-colored trees in the background that indicates it is fall of the year.

CAPTION:

Relaxing.

CREDIT:

Kentucky Dep. of Travel

IMAGE 3 of 8: Trains

DESCRIPTION:

A beige colored locomotive train with a brown stripe pulls another rail car that is brown behind it along a track that sits atop the edge of many boulders. There are green trees along the other side of the train with a very light blue sky. 

CAPTION:

Trains from Stearns.

CREDIT:

Big South Fork Railway

IMAGE 4 of 8: Waterfall

DESCRIPTION: A long white trail of water falls from the high top of a rock ledge. There are many green trees among the base of the cliff as well as some brown logs crossing the turbid stream of water. Mud and rocks can be seen along the path where the water flows from the waterfall. 

Description here

CAPTION:

Yahoo Falls. 

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

IMAGE 5 of 8: Hiking

DESCRIPTION:

A hiker with a large gray backpack, green pants, brown hiking boots and two metal walking sticks is walking along the trail of green and brown leave and purple plants. There is a river to the right of the hiker that flows along the side of the trail with many trees between that are just beginning to bloom with greenery.  

CAPTION:

Hiking in the gorge. 

CREDIT:

Will Skelton

IMAGE 6 of 8: River

DESCRIPTION: 

A boater wearing a brownish colored life jacket and blue water suit paddles a red kayak over the edge of a rock through a rapid with slightly muddy white-water. There are big boulders in the background among some evergreen bushes that are highlighted with sunlight.

CAPTION:

River riders. 

CREDIT:

Tony Robinson

IMAGE 7 of 8: Trails

DESCRIPTION:

A tall rocky edged cliff towers over a brown and white horse and its rider below. Gray skies can be seen through the canopy of tree trunks to the side. Several evergreen trees line the trail covered with brown leaves the follows along the side of the cliff. 

CAPTION:

Riding the trails. 

CREDIT:

True West Campground

IMAGE 8 of 8: Arches

DESCRIPTION:

A brown rocky arch sits over a forest of green trees. Streams of sunlight spread among the rock wall and tree tops to reveal the brownish dirt trail under the arch. Light blue skies can be seen through the canopy of the trees. 

CAPTION:

Twin Arches. 

CREDIT:

Chuck Summers

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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

At the top of the portrait layout is a vertical black band which at far left contains white text that reads, "Sculpting the Cumberland Plateau". Just below the black band is "Safety First" which begins three small columns of text which provides safety messages and park contact information. Just under the top black band starts the background which is the large primary park map that shows access roads, trails, ranger stations, campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches, and overlooks as well as adjacent state parks and the Daniel Boone National Forest. A legend is located at the bottom right corner. On the bottom left corner is a distance measurement reference in which 1.5 inches equals 3 miles.
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MAP and TEXT: Big South Fork

DESCRIPTION:

Most of side two of the brochure is a shaded relief map of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It shows the entire park including paved and unpaved roads, trails, ranger stations, picnic areas, parking, campgrounds, overlooks, and boat launches. The map is oriented with North at the top. There are three major sections of this map with the north end containing the Kentucky area, the middle containing the Bandy Creek area and the south end containing the Burnt Mill area. 

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is an elongated shaped area of approximately 125,000 acres bordered by the Daniel Boone National Forest, Scott State Forest, and Pickett State and Rustic Park and Forest. The boundaries of the park parallel the  50-plus miles of the Big South Fork River that flows from south to north.

The northern portion of the map of Big South Fork has the city of Monticello, Kentucky in the upper left corner with the "Safety First" message below.  Highways 92, 167, and 90 all intersect in Monticello. Moving eastward on a curvy Highway 92 is the shaded relief of Daniel Boone National Forest that sits up next to the park boundary. Hwy 92 crosses the Big South Fork River at Yamacraw Bridge about three quarters of the way across the page. North of Yamacraw is Alum Ford Boat Launch and Campground which are located at the end of Highway 700. Not far up the road heading eastward back to Whitley City, is the Yahoo Falls. Just north of Yahoo is a boat launch called Big Creek which is designated as the northern most point of the park. Starting back at the Yamacraw Bridge and going directly south on the river is the Worley River Access where the train tracks for the Big South Fork Scenic Railway are located. These tracks lead southward from Worley down to Blue Heron by crossing Paunch Creek. The tracks also go eastward back to Stearns, Kentucky passing Barthell Mining Camp along the way. Stearns, Kentucky is where the train depot is located. Not too far east from the depot is the Kentucky Visitor Center that is just off Highway 92. Stearns is also where Highway 92 intersects with Highway 1651 and then Highway 742 that leads westward to Blue Heron Campground and the Overlooks road. This road will continue and end at Blue Heron Mining Community. This is an outdoor museum that has ghost structures of buildings that once stood there. 

The middle section of the park contains the most acreage of the Big South Fork. Moving south from Blue Heron on the map is Bear Creek Horse Camp located at the end of Ross Road. Just slightly south from there is the Split Bow Arch and Bear Creek Overlooks. A horse trail trail head called Slaven Branch is Just a little southwest of the overlooks. Slaven Branch is just about on the Kentucky/Tennessee state line which runs west to east across the map. The town of Winfield, Tennessee is on the left middle portion of the map and it is situated on Highway 27 that continues south into Oneida, Tennessee. From Oneida, access to the park runs westward along Highway 297. Not far from Oneida on Highway 297 is an intersection that goes southwest or northwest. Traveling north-west through the intersection will give access to Station Camp Campground until the road ends at the Big South Fork River at what is called Station Camp. This is a picnic area, boat launch and river crossing. Going south-west from the intersection will travel by Park Headquarters, East Rim Overlook, and then cross the Big South Fork River at Leatherwood Ford. Heading westward from Leatherwood Ford is the Bandy Creek Area that has the visitor center, campground, swimming pool, stables, and trail heads.  The Eastern and Central Time Zones run from northwest to southeast just west of the Bandy Creek Area. Northwest of Bandy Creek is the Charit Creek Lodge and Twin Arches. Directly west is Highway 154 with Pickett State Rustic Park and Forest on the west side.

The bottom section of the map shows Jamestown, Tennessee on the far left with Highways 127, 28, 52, and 296 intersecting. Towards the middle part of this section is the Historic Rugby Village, White Oak Creek River Access and the Brewster Bridge River Access on Highway 52. A little southwest is the southernmost point of the park which is Peters Bridge River Access and Picnic Area. Directly northwest of Rugby  are the Mill Creek Equestrian Trail Head and Zenith River Access and Picnic Area. These are located along the Mount Helen Road running eastward towards Honey Creek Overlook. Just down the road from Honey Creek, the road crosses the Clear Fork River at Burnt Mill Bridge. Following the river north from the Burnt Mill Bridge is the Confluence River Access. This is where Clear Fork River and New River join to start the Big South Fork River flowing northwards. North of the Confluence are several class three and four rapids before reaching the O&W Bridge. On the far right side of this section is Highway 27 running north and south with an intersection where Highway 63 goes west through a town called Huntsville, Tennessee. Highway 63 continues on to Interstate 75. The legend is at the bottom right corner with symbols for recreation, roads, trails, boundaries, and rapids. 

Map credit: National Park Service

RELATED TEXT: 

Legend- Some land within the park remains private property; please respect the owner's rights. The Eastern/Central time zone boundary divides the park. The park operates on Eastern time. 

Any river activity-wading, swimming, boating, rock hopping, or fishing is inherently dangerous; on average two drownings occur here each year. Wet and slippery rocks, strong currents and undertows are the culprits. Use caution near the river and wear a life jacket when swimming or boating. 

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TEXT: Safety first

Floating, hiking, riding, and exploring can be fun, but if you get hurt you may be a long way from help. Cell phones may not work, and getting medical help to you can be difficult. Ask rangers for safety tips, read bulletin boards, and know the regulations. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.


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TEXT: Safety on the river

• Swim at your own risk. Don’t swim alone.

• Wear a life jacket (PFD) when boating. It won’t do you any good at the bottom of your

boat. Children under 16 must wear a PFD.

• As you approach obstacles look for the long glassy “V” pointing downstream. This is the chute—the safest route through.

• If you capsize, stay upstream from your boat. Currents pushing against a canoe can trap and hold you underwater.

• If you capsize in rapids, swim hard to the bank or eddy. Otherwise, stay on your back and keep your feet pointed downstream. Swim ashore after reaching calmer water.

• Rapids and unmarked hazards can occur at any time. Scout ahead and know river levels.

• Never tie a person in a watercraft. Do not lash tubes or canoes together.

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TEXT: More safety tips

• Stay back from cliffs; they may be undercut. Stay on trails to prevent erosion. Watch your step. Rocks and logs can be unstable.

• Be alert for ticks, stinging insects, poison ivy, and venomous snakes (copperhead and timber rattlers). Wear insect repellent, and watch where you step, sit, or place your hands.

• All surface water is unfit for drinking.

• Thefts do occur at trailheads. Leave your valuables at home, secure them out of sight in your vehicle, or take them with you. Ask about shuttle services for floaters and hikers.

• Hunting and fishing are allowed here; state and federal regulations apply. Ask staff about hunting seasons and hunt-free safety zones.

• Black bears live in the park. Practice proper food storage, and keep a clean camp.

• Pets must be on a leash. Do not leave them unattended or in vehicles.


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TEXT: Emergencies

Contact a ranger or call 911



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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. Service animals are welcome.

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OVERVIEW: More information

Big South Fork is one of over 400 areas in the National Park System. To learn more visit, www.nps.gov. Plan ahead. Contact the park and check our website for ideas about planning your trip, safety tips and regulations, and ranger-led activities.

ADDRESS:

4564 Leatherwood Rd.

Oneida, TN 37841

PHONE:

423-286-7275

WEB SITE:

 www.nps.gov/biso

MORE INFORMATION:

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

National Park Foundation.

Join the park community.

www.nationalparks.org.

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