Celebrate Independence Day in the mountains


ONEIDA, Tenn. — Looking to get away for the holiday? Scott County, Tenn., is calling your name!

Scott County — home to the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area and the Cumberland Mountains — offers something for everyone during the 4th of July holiday, from those looking to make some noise to those looking for some peace and relaxation.

The Big South Fork is the 5th-largest national park in the eastern United States, while the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area — nestled in the Cumberland Mountains — represents the second-largest contiguous piece of public property in the State of Tennessee.

Rev it up: Want to explore the mountains with a tight-knuckle grip on the steering wheel and the sound of horses roaring? You’ll enjoy Brimstone Recreation and the North Cumberland WMA! Brimstone offers nearly 20,000 acres of property in the foothills of the Cumberlands, with hundreds of miles of ATV trails along mountain streams, across ridge tops with stunning views, and ranging from easy to difficult. Brimstone has been called the nation’s premier destination for ATV riders, and once you step foot into the mountains here, you’ll see why.

Bordering Brimstone is the 145,000-acre North Cumberland WMA, which is one of the few wildlife management areas in Tennessee to welcome ATVs with open arms. A large number of trails, ranging from dirt and mud to gravel, can be found throughout the wildlife preserve. While you’re there, you might see anything from whitetail deer to majestic elk to wild boar to black bear. At the base of the mountain, Trails End Campground services riders with a full-service campground, trail store, cabin rentals and easy access to the WMA.

R&R: Noise not your idea of fun during a holiday getaway? You’ll love the peace and relaxation of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. Offering some of the most unique geography east of the Mississippi River, the Big South Fork is home to hundreds of rock shelters and other unique rock formations, some of the largest natural land bridges in North America, clear-flowing mountain streams, waterfalls and diverse plant life.

From hemlock- and rhododendron-lined mountain streams to towering cliff walls to the rolling plateau lands that surround the river gorge, the Big South Fork offers an abundance of flora and fauna and plenty of picture-taking opportunities. The park is home to a large population of some 300 black bears. And there are hundreds of miles of trails for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers to experience it all.  Locals enjoy swimming, picnicking and camping on the free-flowing Big South Fork River to celebrate the 4th of July, and recent rains have streamflows just right for kayaking and rafting the river. Fishing is available, as well.

A number of rental cabins are available in picturesque settings surrounding the Big South Fork, or Bandy Creek Campground offers a full-service campground in a forest setting that is among the nation’s best.

The Big South Fork is a lovely area to simply explore on your own. But if you’re looking for activities that are a little more structured, you might be interested in one of the BSF’s ranger-led events. On Thursday, join rangers at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. for a 7-mile guided hike to John Litton Farm, an example of the BSF’s early subsistence farms during the frontier era. On Friday, rangers lead the “healthy hike of the week” at 9:30 a.m. This Independence Day weekend, the hike will be to Angel Falls, a 4-mile round trip that begins at the Leatherwood Trailhead on S.R. 297 on the Oneida side of the Big South Fork River. On Saturday, it’s time to get the kids involved. At 9:30 a.m., rangers lead youth-oriented activities at Bandy Creek that provide kids an opportunity to earn a National Park Service badge as a junior ranger. Also at 9:30 a.m., there is a ranger-guided hike to the Gentlemen’s Swimming Hole at Historic Rugby. At 7 p.m., there are interpretive programs at Bandy Creek Campground’s Campfire Circle. On Sunday, rangers again will lead a hike to the Gentlemen’s Swimming Hole at 9:30 a.m., while rangers will again lead youth-oriented activities at the visitor center. At 2 p.m., rangers will be at Leatherwood to lead hikes or answer questions.

And if you’re worried about all that noise from the Cumberland Mountains — don’t. The ATVs are on the opposite side of Scott County!

Get your patriotism on: Whether you’re spending your holiday weekend in the Cumberlands or in the Big South Fork, you might want to migrate to the historic Scott County seat of Huntsville on Saturday as the town’s firefighters present their annual Firemen’s Fourth Celebration. The two-day festival really gets going on Saturday, beginning with a pancake breakfast at 7:30 a.m., a 4th of July parade at 11 a.m., live entertainment at 12 p.m. and the region’s largest fireworks show at 10 p.m. It all takes place on the historic courthouse mall in downtown Huntsville, right in the middle of Scott County’s scenic beauty.

However you choose to spend your holiday weekend, welcome to Scott County! Stop by the Scott County Visitor Center (located on U.S. Hwy. 27 just north of its intersection with S.R. 63 in Huntsville) for questions, directions or an itinerary. Big South Fork rangers staff the visitor center on Saturday and Sunday to provide information about the national park.

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