What do majestic bull elk, black bears, whitetail deer and bald eagles all have in common?

They all call the northern Cumberland Plateau home! It’s true. The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is home to nearly 500 black bears — making the bear density here just slightly less than the bear density in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bald eagles winter by the dozens on Dale Hollow Lake just to our west, so these majestic symbols of American liberty can often be seen here — especially during the winter months, but during the summer as well, often soaring over the Big South Fork River. To the east, in the Cumberland Mountains, you’ll find elk; there are few things as thrilling to the souls who love wide open places as standing on a mountaintop and hearing the bugle of a bull elk on a frosty October morning.

The Big South Fork is also home to one of Tennessee’s largest populations of wild boar. Whitetail deer and wild turkey can be found throughout the region. You may see otters playing in the river or a red fox darting across the roadway in front of you.

Many of these animals may occasionally be seen from the covered porches of the cabins at Williams Creek.

The good news: Our region is home to very few truly dangerous animals. Black bears are some of the most docile creatures of the forest; some refer to them as overgrown raccoons. There are only two venomous snakes found in our area: the timber rattler and the copperhead.

Did you know? The black bear is native to the northern Cumberland Plateau but had vanished from the region by the late 19th century due to hunting. In the 1990s, a collaborative effort of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought the bears back, with several relocated to the Big South Fork from the Great Smoky Mountains. The bear population has thrived — so much so that there’s actually a hunting season for them on private lands outside the Big South Fork.