If you’ve missed your overnight visits to Hanging Dog Campground – just a stone’s throw from Murphy, NC – you’ve probably missed more than the gorgeous scenery on Lake Hiwassee or nature’s sounds. You’ve been pining away for that bacon sizzling on your camp stove each morning – and your piping hot coffee that helps you clear the cobwebs after a good night’s sleep. Well, air out that tent and sleeping bag, because Hanging Dog will reopen to overnight visitors for the 2016 season!
To get new residents and visitors up to speed, Federal Forest Service officials closed Hanging Dog Campground in 2014 because of increasing operating costs and fewer visitors. Although the Recreation Area’s day use facilities are still available, we were all disappointed at losing our overnight camping spot. In fact, we heard rumors of desperate campers sacking out in their pickups or camping in their yards – they just missed the feeling of sleeping in the great outdoors.
Fortunately, our Cherokee County Commissioners have been working behind the scenes to turn this unfortunate situation around. They’ve spent considerable time huddling with the Forest Service, and have also gotten support from United States Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and United States Congressman Mark Meadows. North Carolina Representative Roger West and North Carolina Senator Jim Davis have also helped to grease the wheels on this worthy effort.
As we write this, the Commissioners and Forest Service are hammering out the details of an overnight camping agreement for the 2016 season. As you might expect, Cherokee County will allocate some funds to upgrade the overnight facilities and perform seasonal maintenance work. Even better, the Commissioners are eying future collaborations with the Forest Service, with the goal of expanding recreational opportunities on Forest Service lands.
However, this groundbreaking news comes with one huge catch. If we want Hanging Dog Campground to be open for overnight camping beyond 2016, we must really throw our support behind it. In other words, start planning those overnight camping trips right now and get out there an USE IT!
Get your friends and extended family together, or plan a “get away from it all” weekend for yourself and a special companion. Pass the word on your Facebook page, and post a notice on the community bulletin board. Finally, book that coveted campsite when the website’s reservation portal opens. Remember, the Forest Service is keeping a close eye on this Murphy, NC landmark – for all the right reasons.