There are several terms that you will hear while you are visiting the Smokies and it helps to have an idea what those terms mean. It helps to let you in on the place names so that it becomes easier for you to find different areas around the Smokies and follow the directions that the people of the area might give you. One of those terms is a place name: the Townsend Wye. This is the area where Lamar Alexander Parkway and Little River Road intersect. It forms a ‘Y,’ thus the name.
The shape that the road makes is where this area got its name and it has been called that since these roads were established with the founding of the National Park. Little River Road from Sugarlands continues past this point to continue toward Tremont and Cades Cove. Lamar Alexander Parkway is the main road that leaves Maryville and runs through Townsend. The intersection of these two roads does in fact make a ‘Y’ shape and like many roads that make that shape around this area it is known as the Wye.
AT this ‘Y’ or Wye is something a little special. As you come out of Townsend, the area to the left is a parking area next to the Little River. This is the parking area to one of the best tubing rivers in the Smokies. It is also home to a gently sloped grassy hillside that is a perfect spot for a picnic or for a place to sunbathe During the summer months, the parking lot here is full of cars and the grassy areas is covered with bodies looking for a place to spread out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine. Especially if you have spent time in the sometimes chilly water, laying in the grassy and luxuriating in the sunshine is a welcome change.
The most important thing to take away from this is the fact that you are going to hear people refer to the Townsend Wye as a reference point and in directions while you are in town. For instance, if you are in Maryville and you are asking how to get to Cades Cove, someone is going to say to you to go to the Townsend Wye and take a right. When you are in Townsend and you are trying to go to Elkmont, they are going to send you to the Wye. And of course, if you are tubing with any of the tubing companies in Townsend, they are going to tell you that they will drop you off and pick you up at the Wye while you are spending the day tubing all day long.