The Weeks Act of 1911 enabled the Federal Government to purchase private land from willing
sellers in the southeastern United States. The majority of the land purchased was owned by
large timber companies at one time. Most of this land was cutover, worn out, and in poor
condition. The USDA Forest Service was given the challenging task of restoring these lands
and making them productive again. That job continues today.
The present day Cherokee National Forest was originally made up of four principle purchase
units that were located in southern Virginia, western North Carolina, north Georgia, and east
Tennessee. These units made up what were to become the Unaka and Cherokee National
Unaka NF: By proclamation of July 24, 1920, President Wilson first established the Unaka
National Forest, combining the White Top, Unaka and French Broad Purchase Units. The gross
of the new national forest was 851,718 acres in TN, NC, and VA. Later proclamations transferred
land from the Unaka NF (French Broad Purchase Unit) to the Pisgah NF and other units
reducing the gross acres to 625,700.
White Top Purchase Unit: This unit was first purchased in 1912 that included 319,625 acres in
southern VA and NE Tennessee.
French Broad Purchase Unit: Totaled 128,698 acres in Madison County, NC and Cocke and
Greene Counties, TN. This unit was transferred from the Unaka NF to the Pisgah NF in 1927.
Cherokee NF: This unit was set up by the NF Reservation Commission in FY 1912 covering
222,058 acres in Polk, Monroe, and McMinn Counties in SE Tennessee. Additional land
purchases were made and by the 1920's the unit covered 569,151 acres in SE TN, NC, and north
Formation of the Present Day Cherokee NF: On July 19, 1936 President Roosevelt combined
the Tennessee portions of the Unaka and Cherokee NF's and the French Broad Division of the
Pisgah, NF forming the Cherokee NF in its present form. The Unaka NF headquarters office in
Bristol was moved to Cleveland where the Cherokee NF's headquarters had been set up in
1925. The CNF headquarters had been in Etowah from 1912 - 1919; Athens from 1919-1924;
Knoxville 1925 and finally in Cleveland in 1925 to present.
|Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel & Outfitters
151 River Road, Erwin, Tennessee
Cherokee National Forest
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The Cherokee National Forest is located in northeastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and
is comprised of 631,715 acres. Three hundred and twenty-seven acres are located in North Carolina. It
borders the Great Smokey National Park on the northern and southern ends. There are 31 developed
campgrounds, 21 of which meet the selection criteria.
The Cherokee National Forest stretches along the eastern side of Tennessee like a towering hedge
of lush green vegetation. Rich with cultural heritage and natural beauty, the Cherokee National Forest
provides wide and diverse recreation opportunities, including lots of trails for hiking, horsebacking
riding, and mountain bikes, good whitewater, fishing and more for its visitors. The range of camping
locations is equally varied to meet the desires of camping enthusiasts.
The Ocoee River, in the southern most portion of the Cherokee, was the site for the 1996 Olympic
Whitewater Competitions. However, the Cherokee National Forest is laced with whitewater rivers for
the kayaker of any experience level. Some of these rivers have commercial outfitters that will provide
equipment and guides if needed. Other rivers are classified "non-commercial" and visitors must bring
their own equipment. (Check with a Ranger District Office for more information about outfitters and
water levels.) North River, Quinn Springs, Spivey Cove, and Thunder Rock campground all offer easy
access to whitewater from their car and tent camping sites. These campgrounds can also
accommodate recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhomes campers.
Fast flowing rivers means Rainbow trout. Many of the streams and rivers are stocked regularly for the
angler's pleasure. Brook and Brown trout can also be found in the Cherokee's streams and rivers.
Bass, Bluegill, and Crappie are plentiful in the many lakes, such as Watauga, McKamey and south
Holston, found within the Cherokee. Parksville (a.k.a. Ocoee) Lake feature an even wider variety of
fish and water activities, such as windsailing, water-skiing, and boating, and a developed with
campground with electric hook-ups, dump station, and hot showers, near the Ocoee Whitewater
Center (site of the 1996 Olympic canoe and kayak competition. The smaller Indian Boundary Lake limits
the size of boat motors and offers only Largemouth bass, Bluegill, and catfish but with its family
oriented design, many electric hook-ups, and separate areas for car and tent camping and RV and
motorhome camping, its campground is well-suited for family camping vacations.
Although the Cherokee National Forest many water-base recreational activities to offer, probably the
most activities are camping and hiking. For the "serious" hiker there is the Appalachian Trail (AT)
which traverses the length of the Cherokee. The 20-mile John Muir Recreation Trail follows the route
said to have been taken by the Sierra Club founder during his travels from Kentucky to Florida. For
the more "leisurely" hiker, there are a number of shorter hikes to waterfalls, along interpretative
nature trails and through tranquil woods. Along with the various levels of hiking trails, there are a
number of horse trails (from the 22-mile Starr Mountain to a 1.5-mile trail named Chestnut Mountain),
four designated mountain bike trails, three motorcycle trails, and even some 4WD trails. No matter
which trail the visitor enjoys, it is possible they will see or meet one of the 70 mammals or 262 species
of birds that make the Cherokee National Forest their home. Spotting one of the many types of
wildflowers adds interest and pleasure to hiking in a Forest with such diversity in topography and
The locations and level of development found in the Cherokee's many camping locations can meet
the needs of any camper. Thunder Rock campground, adjacent to the Ocoee River, is designed for
campers who enjoy a rustic, communal environment and is well suited for kayakers. For a quiet
setting and good Rainbow trout fishing, Paint Creek campground is the place. Indian Boundary and
Chilhowee are good campgrounds for the whole family.
The Cherokee has only one cabin it rents out - The Historic Donley Cabin. The authentic two-room,
19th century log cabin was the home of Jack Donley (1846-1941). Reservations are needed to
experience firsthand the life in these Appalachian mountains. Around 1823, gold was discovered in
the southern portion of what is now the Cherokee National Forest. A drive over to Coker Creek
Village for a lesson in panning for gold and you will be ready to practice your skills in a Forest stream.
If your cultural interests are more "civilized," there are towns like Greeneville (Davy Crockett's
birthplace), Andrew Johnson National Historical Site, Tusculum College, and other points of interests
that await your exploration.
The Cherokee National Forest, with its nine whitewater rivers, mysterious grassy balds, battle-scarred
lands, and lush, vibrant forests offers diverse recreation opportunities that will keep one busy time
after time. Hiking the AT, biking around Indian Boundary Lake, fishing for that "big one," mastering
whitewater, or simply enjoying camping in the quiet and solitude of the forest, Cherokee National
Forest awaits you. Contact Information : Cherokee National Forest Email:
Phone: (423) 476-9700
2800 North Ocoee St.
P. O. Box 2010
Cleveland TN, 37320