When people think of Cherokee, NC, these days, they mostly think about the casino or the Indian village. There’s another quieter, more serene side to Cherokee. The side the Indians probably enjoyed before all the tourists came in droves. We stayed at River Valley Campground last year and were able to have the camper parked directly on the river. The video here (if it comes up–internet difficulties), was the view we had each day right at our door steps. We recommend this place if you are looking for checking out the beauty of nature. On the road to the campground (which is on Big Cove Road), you go through part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During certain times of the year, they have evenings when people can pull off and view the elk in an open field where they come to graze. We were lucky enough to be coming through on such an occasion and I was able to take some awesome photos of these marvelous creatures. Some of them have tracking collars on them so the fish and wifelife commission can keep track of where they are to make sure they stay safe from poachers, how far they travel, and things like that. As you watch the elk, there are rangers there to be sure that the crowds don’t get too large or too “nosey”. People need to keep a safe distance to be sure not to spook these beautiful animals, especuially the large bulls or the babies. Just being able to watch them was a wonderful experience that we will cherish. Some visitors to this area don’t have a lot of respect for the boundaries of the wildlife. They try to get as close as they can to them, not realizing how dangerous it is or even how afraid the could be making the aimals. Some don’t even have respect for other people in the area, as they leave their cars in the middle of the road unattended to go running after a deer or a bear for a picture! Please be respectful to the animals out there; this is their home, we are “just visiting”. If you are near the casino and want to get away to see some really wildlife, go to the River Valley campground area and check out the elk viewing! It is definely worth a few minutes of relaxing and picture taking ops for sure!