Special Merit Classification IV

charit creek lodge

Charit Creek Lodge Big South Fork NRRA, 1989 original construction 1817
Classification IV
confluence of Charit Creek and Station Camp Creek, former hunting camp.
Theme: Mountain Cabin Rustic
Architects: Unknown
Known Timeline:
Original cabin, now a portion of the lodge, constructed by Jonathan Blevins 1817
Operated as hunting camp 1800s
Converted to youth hostel, 1987
Management concession awarded to Stokely Hospitality Enterprises, 1989
Converted to full-service lodge, 1990s
Current accommodations 2 cabins, 2 bunk rooms, maximum occupancy 48
Current stable facilities for 11 horses


In some respects, Charit Creek may be the oldest operating lodge in the National Park system. It has this honor because the main lodge building is a series of additions to a cabin built in 1817, and that original cabin is still part of the structure. Blevins was a prodigious and influential builder in this region during the early 19th century, so the lodge is relatively important in historical terms.

bunks in one of the charit creek cabins

above, the bunks may be simple, but they're a welcome sight after a day of hiking and outdoor activities.

The main lodge is just one of many buildings in the Charit Creek complex. An old smoke house has been converted to host's quarters. There's also a large barn, kitchen and store building, two free standing guest cabins, and another barn-like structure converted to a shared bathroom/shower building. A few hundred yards away is a modern stable building; the only way for overnight guests to reach Charit Creek is on foot or horseback. There is a gated road for emergency access and the caretaker, used only to resupply the camp.

The original hunting camp was carved out of an untamed wilderness. Enter Charit Creek on foot, and it still seems that way. At times it feels as if the lodge complex is on the precipice of being reclaimed by the same savage wilderness. It's part of the charm of Charit Creek, and it's best if the road is kept out of sight and out of mind. There is no electricity, and blissfully, no generator chugging away. Deer, coyotes, fox, snakes, and all sorts of creatures make their way through the camp on a daily basis.

woodstove in one of the cabins

Cabin heating system -- Charit Creek isn't recommended for those who are acustomed to having a turn-down service with mints on the pillow.

It's a place where you leave the rest of the world behind. Charit Creek Lodge doesn't have the romantic sitting nooks of the western park lodges; the porch rockers are better suited to this Appalachian camp. The atmosphere is a kind of quiet stillness. In the summertime, that stillness -- and the heat -- can be oppressive; spring, fall, and even winter are infinitely more pleasant here. Even so, Charit Creek is a charming refuge, no matter what the weather brings.

freestanding cabins

The freestanding cabins are an opportunity to spend a night in much the same fashion as the original pioneers...when Kentucky and Tennessee were the wild west.

Lodging is available with or without the full meal service. Assuming the budget permits it, the full service arrangement is not to be missed. Meals are hearty, served family-style, with quantities and quality that force you to leave the diet back at the trailhead. The dining room has a simple southern country look to it, along with the appropriate dog-eared trail guides and topo maps you'd expect to see laying around. The fun and fellowship in the dining room are simply wonderful, completing the Charit Creek Lodge experience.

dining room at charit creek lodge

The dining room is simple and inviting.

The Experience

Fortunately it's not for everyone...

Charit Creek Lodge requires significant effort to get to; trails down from the various parking lots have some rather strenuous stretches on the return. Sleeping quarters can be oppressively hot in the summer, drafty in the winter, and buggy much of the year. It's not for fussy folks. If you are the outdoorsy type, and you aren't on a strict budget, Charit Creek Lodge provides a rustic lodge experience right in the heart of a beautiful national park unit.


Special Merit Classification IV

Charit Creek Lodge provides design, decor, ambiance and historic value that will enhance a visit to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. With the cautionary statement that it may not be suitable for guests who expect certain comforts and amenities, the Charit Creek Lodge is classified in the fourth tier by the National Park Lodge Architecture Society.

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Visiting Big South Fork

Random foliage

Big South Fork is a land of river recreation, geologic wonders, scenic vistas and historic sites...it's one of the few National Recreation Areas that could be upgraded to full-fledged "National Park" status, and actually be deserving of it. It has a lot more to offer than the newest Park in the east, Congaree, for example. Fact is that BISO receives very few visitors from outside the immediate states of Tennessee and Kentucky. Subtract the visitors from nearby North Carolina and Virginia, and the percentage drops to single digits. End result? BISO is seldom crowded, and lodging at Charit Creek is relatively easy to obtain by comparison to other NPS locations. If Charit Creek were located in Yellowstone, it would be perpetually packed. During the summer months the place is virtually empty -- but be warned, temperatures are often brutally hot, humidity soars, and the insects are murderous. Probably explains why BISO isn't a full-fledged National Park.

charit creek lodge

Construction is authentic "mountain cabin"

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