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Chilhowee Campground Professional Review and Guide
"In 2006, a fatal bear mauling occurred near Chilhowee Campground, but the culprit was caught and euthanized, garnering Chilhowee nationwide attention. However, don’t let this deter you from visiting—just be bear aware. The Chilhowee experience starts on the road to the campground. Forest Service Road 77 is a Forest Service–designated scenic byway that climbs 7 miles to the campground. Don’t rush the trip—pull off at one of the cleared overlooks and enjoy the view of Parksville Lake below, while mountains and valleys undulate in the distance. Once you’ve made the pull to the top and seen the campground, it’s the nearby activities that may keep you from coming down for a while."
--Johnny Molloy, The Best In Tent Camping: The Southern Appalachian & Smoky Mountains (Menasha Ridge Press).
This is the second time I have camped at Chilhowee Campground. Both times were combined with a rafting trip down the Ocoee River. The first time was about 15 years ago. At that time the campground was quite primitive with vaulted toilets and hand pumped water. The access road was very rough and the camp roads were not paved. We had pouring rain along with nighttime visits from wild boars.
This time our experience was much different. The access road was nicely paved with several spectacular developed overlooks. The campground roads were all paved and each loop offered a variety of sites for both tents and small RV's some with electric and water and some without, all clearly marked. The sites were well situated and had nice timber-framed gravel pads with sturdy picnic tables and lantern poles. The only problem we had was that the fine gravel had pretty much turned to cement and made driving the tent stakes impossible on three sides of our tent. We ended up finding some good sized rocks and used them to anchor the lines.
The bathhouse was pretty nice on Loop F where we stayed. After driving around later we discovered that Loops C & D had a brand new bathhouse with two showers for each sex instead of the one on the other loop. The guide does not reflect this new addition. All toilets were flush. My only objection was that both toilets were set at the handicap elevation instead of at the normal height off the floor.
Another observation was that there had been a great loss of trees, especially pines. Some losses were due to a fire, but I think most were probably due to pine beetle infestation.
This is a great place for a base camp in this area especially for activities on the Ocoee River. It takes about 20 minutes to get down the mountain to the main road, US Highway 64. The National Forest Service is to be commended on their campground developments/upgrades over the last 15 years.
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