Big South Fork

South Fork of the Cumberland watershed

About the Big South Fork watershed

Drainage Area

1385 square miles

Notable Tributaries

  • New River
  • Clear Fork


  • Campbell County, TN
  • Fentress County, TN
  • Laurel County, KY
  • McCreary County, KY
  • Pickett County, TN
  • Pulaski County, KY
  • Scott County, TN
  • Wayne County, KY
  • Whitley County, KY

The Big South Fork contains a mix of mountain peaks, rolling highlands, valleys, and slow moving streams typical of the Cumberland Plateau along with the steeper hills and hollows, cliffs, and fast flowing streams of the Plateau Escarpment.

In the drainage, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area attracts over 600,000 people and contributes over $10 million to local economies annually. Sections of the Big and Little South Fork are protected under the state of Kentucky’s Wild Rivers Program and the Big South Fork has been awarded an Outstanding National Resource Waters designation.  

Within the watershed, laurel dace find refuge in the slow moving pools of headwater streams, while the lavender flowers of Cumberland rosemary blossom on sandbars and gravelly banks. Forests here are richly diverse, and a high percentage of the watershed is protected by the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Explore the Big South Fork watershed