Skip to content

Watauga Lake campground closed because of bear activity | Living room

After reports of aggressive bear activity and evidence of bears entering the campgrounds and taking food and garbage, including food that had been stored in an unoccupied tent, Carden Bluffs Campground, on the Watauga District of the Cherokee National Forest, will be closed to the public immediately.

This decision is based on a recommendation from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The site will remain closed until TWRA has either captured the bear or the bear has moved on to another location. This will reduce the opportunity for its behavior to escalate, which could result in injury to the public.

US Forest Service officials are also warning visitors to be on the lookout for black bears. Visitors are reminded of the Forest Order for the entire Cherokee National Forest that prohibits possessing or leaving food, bear attractant, or refuse unless it is possessed properly or stored properly. The order was issued to provide for visitor safety and the conservation of bears.

Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves. Being BearWise helps people live responsibly with black bears.

For more information on bear safety, visit


It’s better together — Walk, hike, jog, cycle and camp with others when possible. You’ll have someone to share the fun with and pitch in and help out if something unexpected happens.

Through the eyes of children — There’s nothing quite like seeing the great outdoors through the curious, wondering eyes of a child to make us grownups stop and really appreciate the wild world around us. Keep kids keep close by and within sight, and make sure they each have a safety whistle just in case. Talk to them about what cool animals bears are and what to do if they see a bear. Then practice before you go.

Tune in to nature — Stash your earbuds, silence your phones and listen to Mother Nature’s 24/7 podcast; it will be music to your ears. Being distracted in the outdoors can be just as dangerous as driving distracted… accidents happen when you’re not paying attention. You’ll be surprised at all the interesting things you’ll notice when you take time to stop, look and listen.

Leave no trace — Double-bag food and snacks, or pack in a dry bag. Be sure to include a bag you can use to pack out all food and trash; don’t leave anything behind, including seemingly harmless things like apple cores, banana peels and trail mix. Food or trash left along the trail teaches bears and other wildlife to associate trails with food. Plus, many snacks formulated for humans contain levels of sodium and other ingredients that can be harmful or even lethal to wildlife.

Special precautions for dogs — Bringing your dog into bear country? Chances are good that sooner or later your dog may encounter a bear. Understanding why some encounters end peacefully and others end with dogs and people injured or killed can help keep people, dogs and bears safe.

Bears don’t like to be chased or cornered; letting a dog chase or bark at a bear is asking for trouble. The bear may feel threatened and respond by defending itself. Why put your dog, your family and yourself at risk? Keep dogs leashed at all times, even in camp, or leave them at home. For lots more information, download a free BearsWise bulletin about bears and dogs at

Sign up to Johnson City Press Today!

Top stories, delivered straight to your inbox.

jogging and cycling — Traveling quickly and quietly makes it easy to surprise a bear. Sometimes bears don’t respond well to surprises. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings; try not to disappear into “the zone.” Talking to your group or making noise now and then is good; Listening to music or talking on the phone is distracting. Bear spray is tough to get at if it’s buried in a backpack but fits nicely into a bike’s water cage or hip or fanny pack.

Do your homework — Standing at the trailhead isn’t the best time to discover that the trail you picked goes through active bear country and you left your bear spray at home.

If you’re away from home, talk to your host or the locals about bear activity. Local outdoor stores and visitors’ centers can be great sources of information.

If you’re headed to a park or forest, visit their website before you go and then stop in at the visitor’s center and talk to staff and check trail conditions or closures. Some visitor’s centers and trailheads have wildlife activity signboards you can check. Many parks and forests have food storage guidelines and other regulations, so be prepared and know before you go.

If you’re heading into the backcountry, it’s even more important to familiarize yourself with the local food storage regulations and recommendations before you go. Losing all your food on day one will take all the fun out of a multi-day adventure.

Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Check the expiration date before you leave home. And brush up on the bear spray basics so you understand how to use it effectively. Local regulations on using bear spray may vary, so know before you go.


There are 43 campsites within Cardens Bluff Campground. Each section of the campground has flush toilets. In addition, there is an accessible shower house with eight showers for use by registered campers only.


Watauga Lake is a 6,430-acre hydroelectric reservoir managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority and surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. Directly across the lake from the campground is the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness area, a rugged, undeveloped mountain range with only the Appalachian National Scenic Trail within its boundaries.


Boating is popular for visitors to Cardens Bluff. Numerous campsites provide easy water access for kayaks, canoes and motorized boats. Swimming and fishing are also very popular activities at Cardens Bluff. Watauga Lake provides remarkably clean water for recreation.

Try the Johnson City Press app today. Download here from Google Play and the App Store.

Recommended Videos


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.