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  1. #1
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    Default Access to Smokies Streams through Cherokee Reservation

    Does anyone know if there is a problem accessing streams in the Smokies through the Cherokee Indian reservation? There are several streams that I would like to try, but the best access is through the reservation. To compound the problem, fishing in all of these streams seem to be restricted to Members of the Cherokee tribe on the reservation.

    Would there be a problem hiking upstream even if I wasn't fishing? I thought about buying a permit just to act in good faith even though I was not going to fish Enterprise Waters.

  2. #2
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    MBB--Interesting problem and one I have pondered a bit. You don't mention which streams you have in mind but the most obvious ones are the Park portions of Bunches Creek and Raven Fork. Since I never fish the Reservation waters I'm not sure if the "open to the public with permits" fishing on either goes all the way to the Park line, but a look at the free map Tribal fisheries provides would tell you. There are some streams on the Reservation set aside solely for tribal members, and I tend to think that Raven Fork at the point where it adjoins the Park is one of them. I know that is the case with Straight Fork from its juncture with Raven Fork to the Park line.

    You might want to try to talk to Robert Blankenship or the fellow who heads the Tribal Fisheries program (can't recall his name off the top of my head) and see what they say. Frankly, I'd also worry a bit about leaving a vehicle in the two places I mention above.

    Finally, if you do figure out a way to get into Raven Fork at the Park boundary, be aware of the fact that you are entering really remote and rugged country. You will be in "The Gorges" in fairly short order, and there is no place anywhere in the Park which is tougher going. I definitely wouldn't advise doing it by yourself, and unless you are reasonably fit and a lot more "catty" than this 68-year-old, don't do it at all. There are places--lots of them--where the only real way to progress upstream is to swim. The banks on either side are that steep and some of the pools are over your head.
    Hope this helps a bit, and if you pursue it, I'd love to know what you learn. There is, I might add, another way into Bunches Creek (although the way back out isn't exactly easy).
    Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Casada View Post
    MBB--Interesting problem and one I have pondered a bit. You don't mention which streams you have in mind but the most obvious ones are the Park portions of Bunches Creek and Raven Fork. Since I never fish the Reservation waters I'm not sure if the "open to the public with permits" fishing on either goes all the way to the Park line, but a look at the free map Tribal fisheries provides would tell you. There are some streams on the Reservation set aside solely for tribal members, and I tend to think that Raven Fork at the point where it adjoins the Park is one of them. I know that is the case with Straight Fork from its juncture with Raven Fork to the Park line.

    You might want to try to talk to Robert Blankenship or the fellow who heads the Tribal Fisheries program (can't recall his name off the top of my head) and see what they say. Frankly, I'd also worry a bit about leaving a vehicle in the two places I mention above.

    Finally, if you do figure out a way to get into Raven Fork at the Park boundary, be aware of the fact that you are entering really remote and rugged country. You will be in "The Gorges" in fairly short order, and there is no place anywhere in the Park which is tougher going. I definitely wouldn't advise doing it by yourself, and unless you are reasonably fit and a lot more "catty" than this 68-year-old, don't do it at all. There are places--lots of them--where the only real way to progress upstream is to swim. The banks on either side are that steep and some of the pools are over your head.
    Hope this helps a bit, and if you pursue it, I'd love to know what you learn. There is, I might add, another way into Bunches Creek (although the way back out isn't exactly easy).
    Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
    If you are going to the "gorges" bring a rope I guarantee you will need a buddy to climb on his shoulders so that you can get up the streambed, and a rope to pull your buddy up. A fellow I fish with has a funny story about his first time there and really being under prepared. Luckily a strong belt was worn by one and got them up stream. After many hours they got through the "gorge" and arrived at the campsite. While I think they initially intended to hike back downstream, my buddy said he didn't care how long it was and hiked the trail as well as 5 to 6 miles of road in the dark. He said it was spooky and there were some mean dogs. YMMV. Just be careful and go with someone who is fit. Have someone to drop you off and park at Hyatt Ridge trailhead with other car. Like Jim said - This is the most rugged place in the Park. And like my previous post said. Watch yourself on access

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the information guys. The primary stream is Bunches, though I am also interested in Stillwell Creek. I have heard before that going up through Raven Fork gorge was unadvisable so that wasn't in my plans.

    Jim, do you know another way to Bunches other than the upper trail that takes you to Flat Creek? I have heard there is a way from the Masonic monument, but never tried to see if there was a manway there or not. I will thank you ahead of time for your help.

  5. #5
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    MBB--The route you mention is the one I had in mind. As for the alternative one you mention (not known to me), my suggestion would be to wait until late fall (after the leaves are down) and maybe try a bushwhacking expedition if you are good with a GPS and comfortable in such approaches. I'll try to ask my brother, Don, who has hiked every maintained trail in the Park and a lot which aren't maintained, about this. He may have some thoughts, and if so, I'll post them.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. Your decision on Raven Fork is an eminently sensible one.

  6. #6
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    MBB--As I suspected would be the case, my brother was able to give me detailed thoughts on accessing upper Bunches Creek. It's a fairly long e-mail and I can't figure out how to cut-and-paste it here. If you will e-mail me directly (jimcasada@comporium.net) I'll forward it to you. No doubt you'll be able to figure out the technical details of posting it. I'm marginally literate (at best) when it comes to computers.
    Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  7. #7
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    Jim, came across your post reference your brothers email on Bunches Creek. Ronnie Parris and I are planning to do this trip and camp for waters not fished. Would you be kind enough to provide the email and any guidance for this trip.
    Heading Bryson way this weekend to get 10 doz. Royal Stimulators that have just been tied for this years fishing by a local friend that Ronnie played H.S. Football with

  8. #8
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    Default You will most likely have problems

    Quote Originally Posted by MBB View Post
    Does anyone know if there is a problem accessing streams in the Smokies through the Cherokee Indian reservation? There are several streams that I would like to try, but the best access is through the reservation. To compound the problem, fishing in all of these streams seem to be restricted to Members of the Cherokee tribe on the reservation.

    Would there be a problem hiking upstream even if I wasn't fishing? I thought about buying a permit just to act in good faith even though I was not going to fish Enterprise Waters.
    Like you said you will be on waters restricted to Cherokee Indians (not public. Local who married an Indian even can't fish there himself, and his kids can't either unless she is present - they are pretty strict about this) until you get unto the park so even with a permit you would be in the wrong. Maybe if you weren't rigged up & ran into the right person, you might be Ok, but I wouldn't chance it. Unless you have landowner permission to access, or want to risk being in streambed and getting all your gear confiscated, and a hefty ticket I wouldn't do it. Plus this is all small potatoes compared to the locals at the trailer park at the mouth of one of these fine streams. Step out of the streambed there and you "really" might get shot. And I promise I'm not blowing smoke up your #$@, really be careful

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MBB View Post
    Does anyone know if there is a problem accessing streams in the Smokies through the Cherokee Indian reservation?...
    MBB, this map, (deleted link 2/2), which is now out of print, might be helpful. I plan to do some more detailed maps of some of the streams in the area by sometime in March.

    The Gorges of Raven Fork: A very impressive stream gradient with tough going and hazards covered in this thread that shouldn't be taken lightly.

    Added 2/2: Also, when all things are considered, it is probably best to have no more freebie maps available on the forum. No hard feelings.
    Last edited by JoeFred; 02-15-2012 at 08:08 AM. Reason: Deleted gorges map & link to OR drainage map.
    “Joe” Fred Turner
    Southern Appalachian Stream Maps sasMaps.com
    Formerly SmokyStreams.com

  10. #10
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    You used to be able to access Bunches Creek through the reservation, but this past fall they changed that. This is tribal water and they will write you a citation or even arrest you if they find you here. I have been going that way for years, but I found this out the hard way. Normally I would not share info on a creek like this, but I don't want any of my fellow anglers getting in to trouble if it can be avoided.

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