Many campers have a love-hate relationship with Memorial Day weekend. On the one hand, it is a treat to spend three nights in a row – two full days of hiking! On the other hand, everyone with a tent and a sleeping bag descends on our favorite parks. Our normally tranquil hikes and haunts become clogged with hordes of families.
A couple years ago we lucked into the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. We enjoyed the trails and the campground. We found plenty of seclusion for a holiday weekend. Such a big contrast with our trek to Abrams Falls! So when we procrastinated a bit on making this year’s reservations, we were thrilled to find two adjacent sites a couple months out in such a beautiful area.
The Blue Heron Campground is one of two developed campgrounds in Big South Fork. It features 45 sites with water and electric for only $20 per night. Nearly every site is decent, but sites 17, 18, 36, 37, 38, 40, and 42 may be least desirable if you wish to back up to the woods. We were in sites 35 and 36 with the knowledge that we would be hanging out in site 35 most of the time.
Site 35 featured a large gravel pad with fire ring and is nearly completely surrounded by the woods. Each site now has a bear box for food, which was quite surprising. We later learned a black bear had wandered through the sites only a couple days earlier!
I will mention that the water at the site seems to require a bit of ingenuity. Nearly all of the handles were strapped down in some fashion. Be prepared.The bathhouse is decent, if rustic. We didn’t use them much on this trip, but remember enjoying them enough on our last tenting trip here.
Our biggest disappointment and/or frustration with the Blue Heron Campground was the lack of available firewood. As I have previously mentioned, we never move firewood in order to protect the forests we love so much. But there is no wood available at this campground. The closest firewood would be the Barthell Coal Camp a couple miles past the campground on Mine 18 Rd. However, it seems the availability of wood is dependent on the ambition of caretaker of the Coal Camp which can be variable. The Fastway Food Mart/Marathon at the intersection of 1651 and 92 seems to be more reliable and wood is six sticks for $5. Unfortunately, that wood seemed a little green and was reluctant to light. We ended up buying kiln-dried, treated wood at Tractor Supply in Oneida, so I would suggest those coming from the south to stop there. Otherwise, I did see some wood at a gas station in Whitley City.
Otherwise, we loved our time at Blue Heron! We ate well, went on great hikes, and made new friends!