Big South Fork expects busy summer
Could Summer 2020 be the busiest summer the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area has ever experienced?
Niki Nicholas, the superintendent of the national park, thinks so.
As the Covid-19 pandemic causes people to vacation in different ways, including staying close to home and seeking ways to be outside and away from crowds of people, the Big South Fork fits the bill as an alternative vacation destination. It’s within a day’s drive of most of the U.S. population, and within a half-day’s drive of millions of people across much of the eastern part of the country.
“We are looking at tourism trends, and the information we’re getting from various sources, people need to get out of the house, they want to do things with the family, but getting on airplanes is something that from a number of different perspectives is gonna be much more reduced,” Nicholas said.
“We’re expecting very high activity for recreational use of the Big South Fork, which is great,” she added. “We want to show the world what a fabulous place this is.”
Just one month ago, the Big South Fork was completely empty — shuttered, with barricades blocking access to most roads and trailheads, as the National Park Service took steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Prior to the park’s closure, visitation was skyrocketing.
That spring increase in traffic to the Big South Fork was at least partially due to a nation on furlough — people who would ordinarily be working but who were not, due to the Covid-19 threat. With time on their hands, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed, they were seeking somewhere to be outside.