Fall Colors in Townsend

The mornings are getting a bit cooler, football is beginning to creep back into everyone’s daily lives, and school’s starting back. If these all signal the onset of Fall to you, well you’re like many others in East Tennessee. And with autumn comes Fall colors. If you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re probably beginning to wonder about the fall colors and when the leaves will start changing in Townsend, as well as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the surrounding areas.

The mornings are getting a bit cooler, football is beginning to creep back into everyone’s daily lives, and school’s starting back. If these all signal the onset of Fall to you, well you’re like many others in East Tennessee. And with autumn comes Fall colors. If you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re probably beginning to wonder about the fall colors and when the leaves will start changing in Townsend, as well as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the surrounding areas.

Thankfully, this summer has not been extremely dry, and though there have been some hot days, it seems like prevalent conditions could produce a vibrant autumn season. In all, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park consists of 100’s of species of deciduous trees in a variety of elevations. What this means is that, no matter the summer conditions, there will still be an abundant amount of color to see since weather varies throughout… there is no such thing as a “bad” fall in the Smoky Mountains!

Once cooler weather starts to prevail, then leaves will start changing color at a more rapid rate. It starts off in the higher elevations with a number of tree species. Once you get to around mid- October, you’ll see mostly golden yellow colors mixed with some orange, and a hint of red. These colors will descend down the mountains into the valley as the vibrant reds slowly catch up and start to mix with the oranges, browns, and yellows. If cold weather sets in during these months, the colors will peak in the mountains and valley around the last week of October and into early November.

I’d highly suggest keeping track of the official Great Smoky Mountains National Park website to follow the fall foliage changing color. They even have a page dedicated to fall foliage at: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm.

Also, take a look at their webcams:



Finally, be sure to check out the Park’s tips for fall hiking and scenic drives: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fall-suggestions.htm

Once again, the best time to see the fall colors in Townsend, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge will be the last week of October and into early November. This is my favorite time of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains…I hope you enjoy it as much as the locals do!

Biking Townsend – Cades Cove and Beyond

Outdoor adventures and Townsend usually means floating down a river, hiking the Smokies, but just as many visitors trip to Cades Cove for the park’s biking opportunities along the Cades Cove Loops Road.

At the Cades Cove Campground Store, you can rent bicycles and helmets for a trip around the Loop Road. As you might have guess, this store is located at the Cades Cove Campground. Biking equipment is available beginning in April at a rate of $3.25 an hour. Contact the Cades Cove Campground store from 865-448-9034.

If the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop Road is too grueling a trip for you, Sparks and Hyatt Lane cut across the cove to shorten the journey for any first-time Smokies visitors. The shortcuts can also eliminate most of the hills on the loop, however, they also cut out many of the points of interest. Some people bike Cades Cove using one of the short cuts and then visit the cove again by car. You can only use bicycles on the Cades Cove loop road or other paved areas of the tour. You may not take bicycles off road or on trails.

Drinking water and restrooms are always issues to bikers. Both are available near the Cades Cove Campground Store and at the Cable Mill area inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is recommended that bikers bring a water bottle with them along with a bike friendly bottle holder. Though the Cades Cove Campground Store is at the beginning of the loop, the Cable Mill area is six miles away.

Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to motor vehicles for the benefit of foot and bicycle traffic from sunrise until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from May 7-September 24. Summer hours are 9-5 (7-7 on Wednesday and Saturday bicycle days). Last rentals are at 4:30 p.m. Take care to wear helmets and heed warning signs. Bikes are permitted on most park roads but prohibited on most trails.

Townsend Spring Itinerary

Cades Cove church

Spring in Townsend, Tn might just be the perfect time to be in the Smokies for some, though you’re sure to hear the exact opposite from those fall foliage lovers, but that’s neither here nor there. In actuality, both seasons offer ample opportunities geared at getting visitors back to nature – something Townsend excels at, no matter the season. From popular festivals to numerous hikes and bicycle tours around the Smokies and Cades Cove, we’ve compiled a list of Spring “to-do’s” in Townsend. Be prepared to spend a few days if you plan on getting to everything, or just use it as a daily reminder if you plan on coming back a few time this spring.

Strap on your hiking boots and pack something warm just in case as the first jaunt on the Townsend Spring Itinerary gets you off the beaten path and onto the trails of the Smoky Mountains –

  • Take one of the numerous wildflower walks and hikes offfered in the Smoky Mountains; rent a bike from the Cades Cove Campground store and bike the Cades Cove Loop Road or rent from one of the many locales in town and ride the Townsend bike path. One of the most popular day hikes in the area is the Abrams Falls hike by way of Cades Cove – an easy 5-miler that will cool you off halfway through with a quick dip in the pool below Abrams Falls. Definitely worth the hike.

Our next itinerary suggestion lets the traveler enjoy the best of what Townsend and the Smokies has to offer – Cades Cove –

  • Beat the crowds and tour the Cades Cove loop in morning. Take in an evening tour if you’re interested in the Cove’s wildlife and history. Guided tours are now available through Cades Cove Heritage Tours. Be sure to stop by the Cades Cove Campground Store for some of their fabulous ice cream.

So, you’re ready to get back and sample some of Townsend’s offerings, etc? Not only does Townsend offer a handful of great locally-themed stores, there are also a number of historical stops around town to introduce visitors to the history of Townsend and the Smoky Mountains.

  • Check out the arts and crafts of Townsend at some of its many galleries and craft boutiques. From Apple Valley Farms to Nawger Nob to Southern Fried Gallery, Townsend is ripe with local artistic flavor. During the spring there are numerous festivals including the Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day, as well as the Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival. For you history buffs, check out the Little River Railroad Company. It was there that the region got its start as loggers roamed the area before it was designated part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Did you miss anything while you were exploring? Use your final day to just mill around town, or ask the locals what some of their favorite haunts are –

  • Many people come to Townsend to fish. If so, stop by an Little River Outfitters and find out where the fishing is best to be had and pick up some of the latest gear too, eat a great meal at a distinctive local Townsend restaurant, or tour a Tennessee farm. Whatever it is, you’re sure to be back in town in no time. Townsend sort of has that effect on people – they drive through just looking for a way to get to the national park and end up staying for a few days. There’s sure to be even more to add to your list next time you’re in town, hopefully this is a good start.
Cars parked along Cades Cove loop road

Hiking Townsend – Abrams Falls Trail

Hiking to Abrams Falls by way of Cades Cove and Townsend, TN.

As far as Smoky Mountain hikes go, the Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most conducive to beginners and weekend hikers. It’s an easy 5-miler (round-trip) that families can plan a weekend or day-trip around. Set aside 3 hours to fully enjoy the hike however, longer if you plan on enjoying the waterfall. Starting in Cades Cove, just outside Townsend, TN, the trek to Abrams Falls is a great way to get to know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

So lets talk about the trail itself, which ascends to 1,800 feet at one point. Once you reach Abrams Falls you are actually 300 feet lower than when you began. To get there, take Little River Road from Gatlinburg or Townsend (refer to map below), take the one-way Cades Cove Loop Road 4.9 miles and turn right onto a gravel road that leads to a parking area. If you reach the Cades Cove Visitors Center you’ve gone too far. The Abrams Falls Trail begins at the end of the parking area. You’ll cross the wooden bridge at Abrams Creek to start out. At the 0.5 mile mark, the Elijah Oliver Place is present and the trail goes left to begin the hike to Abrams Falls. For the most part Abrams Creeks will run right with the trail, with one exception when it veers to a highly fished horseshoe bend. Wilson Branch appears at mile 2.5 and the short side trail leads to the falls.

You’ll notice that Abrams Creek resembles a narrow chute before transforming into a beautiful, yet violent 20-foot plunge over a ledge. This natural pool is a haven for swimmers and sunbathers during the hot summer months. In June, laurel and rhododendron frame the falls on its banks. The mist from the falls is a welcome break for hikers as an easy way to cool off and enjoy the park’s natural beauty.

For those looking for an even bigger challenge, the remaining two miles of the trail are much more isolated and unkempt. Ending at Abram’s Creek Ford, get on the Hannah Mountain Trail (left for 1.9 miles to the Rabbit Creek Trail at Scott Gap) and the Hatcher Mountain Trail (right 2.8 miles to the Cooper Road Trail and the Beard Cane Creek Trail). Or just retrace your steps to the Abrams Creek Trail and return to Cades Cove. You’ve completed the 5-mile round trip.

hiking.jpgA quick word of advice, wear hiking boots or shoes comfortable enough for a good walk. For day-hikers, running shoes should suffice, but the National Park’s uneven trails require hiking boots. Please stay on the trail. Hikers can easily lose their way when they leave the trail. If you get temporarily lost, try to retrace your steps until you cross the trail again.

Consider packing yourself some rain gear and a wool sweater as well. Both could be the difference between a terrible hike or a memorable one, especially  if it rains. During the spring and summer you never know when one of those afternoon showers are going to pop up. Even during the summer rain can lead to hypothermia. Having said that, don’t let a fear of hypothermia, getting lost, or bears prevent you from enjoying the Abrams Fall Trails, or any other trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for that matter.

Thinking about bears now? Most park rangers will tell you that more likely to see a bear’s behind as he runs off than meet one face to face. “Incidents” occur when people try to feed or bother the bears or bear cubs.

Directions: To get to the Smokies area from where you are, see directions to get to Gatlinburg or Townsend, Tennessee. From Townsend take TN 321 to the park entrance, turn right on Little River Road to Cades Cove. From Gatlinburg, turn right at the Sugarlands Visitor Center onto Little River Road and on to Cades Cove, where you will travel nearly halfway around the 11-mile loop road to the parking area for the 5-mile round-trip hike to Abrams Falls.

Tubing Townsend

Tubing in Townsend, TN – where to get inner tubes, outfitters for the Little River, and the “Y” in Townsend, Tenn.

If you’re coming through Townsend, Tn during the summer and early fall months, you’re bound to see groups of people floating lazily down the Little River on inner-tubes, lounging the day away. It’s almost as if it’s a recreational sport in this part of country…. And don’t knock it till you try it cause tubing in Townsend is as much a pastime as baseball in this country.

There are a number of outfitters along Highway 321 and Highway 73 in Townsend, as well as close to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that offer inner tubes for rent, some even kayaks, to float down the Little River. It’s just another way of having fun and staying cool during those hot summer months in the Smokies. Of course, the big draw is getting in at the “Y” – a kind of “water hole” where sunbathers and tubers congregate just outside the National Park. And don’t worry if you don’t have you’re own tube, there are plenty of places to rent from around the river. Here are just a few:

River Rage, 8307 State Highway 73, Townsend, TN 37882 (865) 448-8000 – River Rage offers its own private access to the Little River, custom tubes, as well as go carts and a restaurant. The Rage facilities include outdoor showers and lockers, clean restrooms and changing rooms, and shuttles to transport you to various parts along the river.

River Rat Tubing & Kayak, 205 Wears Valley Rd. Townsend, TN 37882 (865) 448-8888 – River Rat offers tubing expeditions as well as whitewater adventures at its Townsend location. They offer a picnic area as well as amenities like changing rooms for guests.

River Romp, 8203 State Highway 73, Townsend, TN 37882 (865) 448-9743 – The River Romp is a family-owned Townsend attraction specializing in tubing the Little River. River Romp is located on the Little Pigeon River is less than a five mile trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, yet it offers the majestic scenery and peacefulness of a secluded Smoky Mountain river.

Smoky Mountain Adventures Inc., 338 Old Cades Cove Road, Townsend, TN 37882 (865) 448-9914 – If it’s white water rafting in Tennessee you’re after, then Smoky Mountain Adventures will be your guide as you navigate through class 3 to 4 rapids.

Tube Junction, 8215 State Highway 73, Townsend, Tennessee (865)567-7647 Tube Junction in Townsend, TN is a second generation tubing and kayaking outfitter that offers heavy guage, multi-colored tubes with handles for its river-goers. Though not mandatory, life vests are available to those who need them at no additional charge.

*It is prohibited to consume alcohol while tubing on the Little River according to the city of Townsend, Tn. If caught, you can be fined and/or placed under arrest. It is also unlawful to consume alcohol inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park unless you are at a campsite.

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Tuckaleechee Caverns is one of the most well-known caves in the eastern United States boasting stalagmites that grow up to 24 feet high.

Forget driving all the way out to New Mexico just to stand in line for a chance to walk through Carlsbad Caverns. Come to Townsend, Tn and stroll through Tuckaleechee Caverns beneath the Great Smoky Mountains in what is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the Smokies.

The Tuckaleechee Caverns have been carved over tens of thousands of years and are estimated to be between 20 and 30 million years old. These caverns are made up of formations commonly referred to as “cave onyx.” These are essentially formations of calcium carbonate – the same material that makes up limestone. While it’s beautiful to look at, it’s brittle and will break like glass. The acidic touch of one’s hand to cave onyx would destroy the gloss on it, thus dulling its luster.

It’s formed when surface water combines with carbon dioxide, which is given off by plants, producing a mild carbonic acid. The acid dissolves limestone rock (calcium carbonate) and forms calcium bicarbonate which is soluble in water. This solution seeps down into the cave forming the cave onyx.

It’s widely known that the Cherokee Indians knew of the caverns and hid in them before European settlers discovered them about 1850.

The first white Europeans reached the area in the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s. History says that the European descendants discovered the caverns about the middle of the 19th century when sawmill workers watched heavy rain water run into a sink hole in the area. Though the hole had been filled with debris, an opening was found in the rock, thus leading to what is now the entrance of the caverns.

Wallfalls in Tuckaleechee Caverns

Even prior to the discovery, reports of a cool spot in the valley near a sink hole were prevalent in the area. The year-around, 58-degree temperatures of the Caverns could be felt by anyone standing near the sink hole which later became the entrance to the caverns. It was even said that local residents would take their clothes there to hang in the entrance’s cool breezes. Today, these same breezes are funneled into Tuckaleechee’s gift shop and visitor center in order to air-condition each building.

Officially, the caverns opened tot he public in 1931 before closing due to the Depression. The caverns sat as they were until 1949 when two Maryville College students and Townsend residents, W.E. “Bill” Vananda and Harry Myers, began talking about options in order to open the caverns back up. As boys, Myers and Vananda had spent many a summer day playing at the cavern’s entrance and even exploring its caves.

Following four hard years of labor on construction jobs in Alaska, Vananda and Myers were able to save sufficient funds to open Tuckaleechee back up in 1953 as a tourist attraction.

Almost a year later, the cavern’s Big Room was discovered by members of the National Speleological Society. Headed by Burt H. Denton Jr. of Nashville, the group was part of the Tennessee Geological Cave Survey. The Big Room is more than 400 feet long, 300 feet across, and 150 feet deep. It’s also open to the public and tour guides give hour-long presentations of the cavern. Most come to visit the Big Room and see its stalagmites, which grow up to 24 feet high. On average, the cave sees 50,000 people come through its Big Room each year.

Little River Railroad Company

Townsend’s Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum is one of the Smoky Mountain’s hidden treasures. Smoky Mountain history is on full display at the museum as visitors are privy to the inventive, courageous nature of the American industrial spirit. These lumber pioneers, as well as others who toiled in the region that would eventually become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings, tool their equipment to the conditions they labored in, therefore indirectly assisting in establishing the roads that we still travel today. The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company museum should be on every visitor’s list that comes through Townsend, especially local history buffs and railroad enthusiasts that visit the area.

The artifacts and exhibits that are part of the collection welcome each visitor, even while still on the road. Included among the outdoor exhibits are: a Shay Engine, a caboose, a set of old-time houses, and an early water tower. These early 1900s items were actually used in the area as part of the early logging industry. The museum exhibit’s cornerstone is the Shay engine. Little River used the Shay engine to haul log cars down the mountain to the sawmill and to transport the lumber yard workers up the mountain and back to work. Basically, the Shay engine was the backbone of the Little River Railroad Company. For lack of a better term, this is a must see for train enthusiasts everywhere, as not many of these Shay engines remain in existence. It’s certainly hard to find one as beautifully and meticulously maintained as the one at Little River.

Make your way inside after taking a look at things outdoors and notice the photos and all the information posted about the logging industry in the Smokies at that time. The first exhibits detail the natural history of the area and the Elkmont pioneers. Next, the industry’s rise is detailed as well as the types of tracks and locomotives that people used while logging. One of the most fascinating parts of the museum is the part detailing how inventive and industrious these workers were. Everything from designing new types of rail cars to a swinging bridge for flatcars is noted and highlighted… You’ll be amazed to see what the laborers came up with to make lumber transportation possible.Finally, the exhibit concludes with the introduction of the railroad and lumber industries and its effect on the National Park.

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum is part of our early American history. It blends the excitement of hard work and adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains. The American spirit is displayed in vivid detail here. You’ll see how the land was used before the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take pictures with a piece of history, read about the logging industry, or just soak up the essence of early America. No matter, it’s a great experience for everyone.

Cades Cove

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has preserved Cades Cove to look much the way it appeared in the 1800’s. Most settlers originated from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee. Today, Cades Cove is the largest open air museum in the entire park with up-to-the-period pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, and farmland.

cades cove loop  road map

Cades Cove – formerly “Kate’s Cove”, an Indian chief’s wife, has always been known for its abundant wildlife and good hunting, thus why it was so appealing to the local Cherokee Indians. Eventually, Cades Cove’s wildlife drew European frontiersmen as well. The Englishmen and their decendants cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms in the area. For many generations, pioneer families called Cades Cove their home, until the cove became a part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Still as full of wildlife as before, Cades Cove draws in millions of Smokies visitors every year.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has preserved Cades Cove to look much the way it appeared in the 1800’s. Most settlers originated from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee. Today, Cades Cove is the largest open air museum in the entire park with up-to-the-period pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, and farmland.

Most home sites are outside the Cades Cove loop road. These remaining original structures, as well as abundant wildlife, are easy to spot as you travel the loop. Inside the loop are acre upon acre of grass and wildflower fields once cleared by pioneers for growing crops such as wheat, corn, and raising cattle.

Still, many homes in the cove were not preserved. Those abandoned home sites are still visible to the trained eye. The obscure lonely chimney’s, rock fences or landscaping which does not seem natural to the surroundings are all remnants of the cove’s past. In addition to the European descent Americans who settled Cades Cove over a century before it was absorbed into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there were also Native Americans Cherokee Indians. Their mark on Cades Cove can be seen in the form of the park’s trails, many of which were developed into roads and/or hiking trails.

The loop enters Cades Cove near Sparks Lane–
Sparks Lane is one of two roads that cut directly across Cades Cove loop road, the other being Hyatt Lane. A left on Sparks Lane followed by a short drive will take you to the Cades Cove Loop exit. This lets anyone who might need to go to the store, return a bike rental, or make a restroom stop do so in case they missed it upon entering the Cades Cove.

john oliver cabinThe Oliver’s Cabin was the first in the Smokies–
In its beginnings, Cades Cove was settled on the north eastern side where the loop starts, for this is the higher and dryer part of the cove, away from the swampy land of the park. John and Lurany Oliver were the first to settle this area.

Typical of other European immigrants and their kin, the Olivers came regardless of the fact that there was no Indian treaty allowing them access to the Smoky Mountain land. It was  this practice of settlement without treaty that was the source of much friction between new settlers and the Native Americans already living in the Smoky Mountain region. However, for John and Lurany, the Cherokee Indians actually helped them survive their first winter. A year later, the Calhoun Treaty gave whites the right to settle the cove just one year after they arrived. The Olivers purchased their land in 1826 and when Cades Cove became part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park there were still Oliver descendants living in the cove.

The Oliver’s original cabin stood fifty yards or so behind the Cades Cove cabin now identified as their first cabin. For instance, the cabin, still standing and preserved by The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service and identified as the Oliver’s cabin is actually the honeymoon house which the their family built for their son to use when he married.

Luxury Log Home Resort in the Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church–
Being that it took a little faith to settle the American frontier, no where was religion as a big part of life for the settlers as it was in the Smoky Mountains, and especially Cades Cove. Before the Baptist Church was founded,  Cades Cove residents were tasked with traveling through the Smoky Mountains to attend Sunday meeting in Millers and Wears Coves. Tuckaleechee Cove also provided campground revivals, now present day Townsend.

The Cades Cove Baptist church was established in 1827. During those days, one portion of the scripture allowed for missionary work while others in the congregation countered otherwise. The issue was not solely affecting Baptists in the Smokies but was widespread throughout the nation. In essence why a decision was made to rename their church in order to distinguish it from Baptists with other beliefs. Officially, it was renamed the Primitive Baptist Church in 1841. For 60 years the congregation met in a log structure until the white frame church was constructed in 1887.

Cades Cove Methodist Church–
Cades Cove’s Methodist congregation also began modestly meeting in a log structure with a fire pit and dirt floor. It took 62 years to get a newer, more modern building. In 1902 carpenter/pastor, John D. McCampbell built the pretty white frame structure which became the Cades Cove Methodist church. Its two front door design was common in the 1800’s in the Smokies and elsewhere. Generally, a two front door design allowed men to enter and sit on one side of the chapel and women and children on the other. Cades Cove’s Methodist congregation was a bit more relaxed and thus sat where they pleased. Records show the design was copied from that of another church building which happened to have the two door design. The balanced design of the little Methodist Church reflects a feeling of peace and harmony in its Smoky Mountain setting.

Still, the church’s aesthetics did not shield this its congregation from controversy. The Cades Cove Methodist church was troubled by division during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Some members split off and formed the Hopewell Methodist church. The Hopewell building no longer stands.

Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove–
Hyatt Lane is one of the many Indian trails located throughout the Smokies. Many settlers traversed it when traveling to Tuckaleechee or Maryville. Today, Hyatt Lane is a dusty two lane shortcut through Cades Cove. The tour continues straight ahead on the Cades Cove loop so keep in mind you’ll miss a lot if you cut across the cove on Hyatt Lane.

Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains, and only accessible by Indian trails. Some of those trails have since been improved to roads. Of those trails, one was called Cades Cove road, which was later changed to Rich Mountain Road. By either name, the road was one of the main routes through the Smokies between Tuckaleechee and Cades Cove.

Today’s Smoky Mountain visitors face the temptation to travel up Rich Mountain Road due to the number of spectacular views of Cades Cove. But don’t take it before finishing the auto tour – most of which lay beyond the road’s turn off. Rich Mountain Road is a one way dirt road which exits the Great Smoky Mountain National Park after 12 mountainous miles.

Travel from Cades Cove to such local towns as Maryville in those days could be troubling, especially by horse. You were almost guaranteed a 3-day trip all around. One travel day into town. One to buy or sell goods, or perhaps visit and one to travel back.

Generally a self sustaining community,Cades Cove settlers  bought things in Maryville including medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, Castor oil, Epsom salts, and catnip tea. Eventually the Giles Gregory store sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies could be purchased instead of making the long trip into town. Goods could be bought or traded for such as eggs. Still, Maryville had a more appealing selection of goods and so the trips from Cades Cove continued. While in Maryville, if the family was selling rather than buying, chances are they were selling chestnuts which once grew in abundance in Cades Cove. Unfortunately disease eventually killed Cades Cove’s majestic chestnut groves.

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church–
As with all churches in the Smokies region, Baptists were divided into two camps – members who supported missionary work, temperance societies and Sunday schools and those that didn’t. Despite prevalent thought on the lack of Biblical support for such things, a number of Cades Cove Baptists were eventually dismissed from the original Baptist church for their beliefs including Johnson Adams who served as pastor.

On May 15, 1841, Adams and other disenfranchised Smokies pioneers banded together and established the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. At the beginning, they had no meeting house and had to meet in member homes. On occasion, they were able to meet at the Primitive Baptist or Methodist church buildings. At the time, there was still much confusion over the Civil War in the Smokies. Missionary Baptists didn’t meet for long periods of time during the Civil War and reconstruction. Missionary Baptists had a particularly successful revival following the war and were able to erect their own church building in Cades Cove. Their church was constructed on Hyatt Hill in 1894, and membership soared to 40 members. Eventually the congregation grew to over one hundred. In 1915, a new building was constructed in the present location.

Elijah Oliver Place–
The Elijah Oliver cabin, corn crib, smokehouse, springhouse and barn provided aelijah oliver place cozy environment for this branch of the Oliver family. Elijah was the son of John and Luraney and was born in their original Cades Cove cabin in 1824. Elijah grew into a young man and married before eventually bringing his bride to the site where they built the Smokies cabin that bears his name.

To say that the Oliver family were keenly aware of their dependence upon God, family and neighbors would be an understatement. Elijah lived in a time when strangers were taken in and given a bed and food without second thought. The hospitality of Cades Cove and its residents was so well known that fishermen came to the cove knowing that the settlers would give them lodging at no charge. Many Cades Cove residents actually made a special room built to house the strangers for this exact reason. Elijah Oliver as well had a “strangers room” – this one built on his front porch.

Cable Mill Historic Area & Visitor Center–
Surrounded by a snake rail fence, the Cable Mill is one of the most popular stops on the Cades Cove tour. There is a national park visitors center at Cable Mill that is open from mid-April through October where visitors can buy post cards, maps, and books about Cades Cove and the national park as a whole. On occasion, corn meal and molasses are available. Cable Mill’s also has restrooms, information, emergency assistance, and park rangers. There are many outdoor displays at Cable Mill to peruse as well. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service constructed all the buildings on this site except the Grist Mill.

Sorghum Mill–
For sweetener in those times settlers used a number of resources including honey, maple syrup, and maple sugar. A very dark sweet syrup was also used called molasses. For Smoky Mountain pioneers molasses was a savored treat – especially when served on corn bread with a little butter.

Molasses was made in the Cades Cove at the sorghum mill. In its beginning stages, molasses is grown as sorghum cane which is first stripped of leaves, then fed between the rollers of the mill. The mill’s long poles were attached to a harness worn by a farm animal, usually an ox, mule, or horse. Because the harness was attached around the pole, the animal was forced walk in a circle. This constant circular motion turned the rollers which pulled the stalks further into the mill where the sorghum juice was squeezed out. As the rollers squeezed the juice from the cane, it was collected then boiled down in an outdoor furnace until it turned thick and dark. Molasses was used in a variety of ways as a sweetener and can still be purchased around the middle of September into October at the Cades Cove visitors center.

Gregg-Cable House had two locations in Cades Cove–
Becky Cable passed away in her Cades Cove home in 1940 at age 94. Her home wasbecky cable house located on Forge Creek Road but following her death the Great Smoky Mountain National Park service decided to relocate the house to the Cable Mill area. Becky Cable herself, lived a long, productive life in the cove. She raised her brother’s children following an episode where he and his wife became ill. Becky also ran a boarding house in addition to her brother’s farm. She was a gardener, raised cattle and grew food for herself , her family and her brothers.

Cable Mill Barn–
cable barn cades cove
Most of the barns in Cades Cove were of the cantilever design, but not all of them. These barns were of a similar design of which we have today with a row of stalls on each side of an isle. In the cantilever design, the stalls were constructed  in the middle of the structure with a large loft overhang on each side. There were many advantages to each, one being the shelter provided by the cantilever barn. This shelter provided animals not kept in stalls some shelter as they could wander from the pasture to stand under the large eaves. More common barn designs were also used to protect domestic animals and livestock from the predators of the Smokies.

Corn Crib–
Corn was as big a crop in Cades Cove as anywhere in the country at the time. Therefore, corn and the building known as a corn crib whichcorn  crib protected it were put at a premium by early pioneers. Corn was ground into corn meal and used for making corn bread and grits, mush or left whole to make hominy as well as grain for livestock. You’ll notice that the Cades Cove corn cribs were designed with slats which would hold the corn in while allowing maximum air circulation. The harvested corn ears were tossed in the above hatch in the crib usually with the shucks still on the ears where they air dried into hard kernels still on the cob. There is a small door at the bottom of the crib. Corn was shucked and rubbed together briskly to knock the hardened corn from the cob. Once off the cob, the corn kernels could be made into hominy, hominy grits, mush, cornmeal, or chicken and livestock food.

Smokehouses were common in Cades Cove as throughout the Smokies to cure pork – a common meat of the day. Before the hogs were slaughtered, they were prepped for an extended time. The hog’s diet really affected the flavor of the processed meat. Hogs were fattened on the abundant chestnuts found in huge Chestnut groves once common in Cades Cove. It was common for farmers to let hogs run loose among the chestnut groves because they would not dare leave the feast of chestnuts found on the ground. Following a few weeks on the  chestnut buffet, the hogs were brought back to the barn where they were “topped off” with corn for a few weeks.

The farmers would have what was called a “hog killin” in the Fall every year when the weather got cold enough to process the hogs before they spoiled. It was not uncommon for a family to kill up to 10 hogs at a time. Families were rather large back then. “Hog killins,” to some barbaric, were thought to be necessary for survival. Afterward, the pork was spiced and smoked over a slow fire then made into hams, bacon, jowl, hogshead cheese, sausage, and was kept in the smokehouse until needed.

John P. Cable Mill–
Power and knowing how to harness it was also at a premium in Cades Cove in the early days. The water wheel such as the ones that drove the early grist mills was one of the cove’s earliest form of generated power. Cable Mill is one of those with a water wheel. The Cable Mill is kept running in Cades Cove by The Smoky Mountains Natural History Association in order to teach visitors a little about life in the 1800’s. The mill runs April-October.

Some settlers even built water driven mills to grind grain. It was an enterprising gamble as it was thought that Cades Cove families would prefer paying them to grind the grain rather than wrestle with the small, inefficient tub mills only capable of processing a bushel of corn per day. As a result, these early entrepreneurs provided a much needed and sought out service.

Grinding grain did not always mean money exchanged hands for payment in Cades Cove. Money, when available, was paid but other times the miller was paid with a resulting portion of the flour or meal. Cable was also the only Cades Cove resident to use the overshot water wheel. Cable doubled as a farmer too, like most other cove businessmen. A large bell posted on his property was rung when other business called.

The saw mills were important to the cove’s history because they changed the way people built houses. Before the saw mills, all homes were constructed using logs. After the saw mills, the homes were built almost exclusively of lumber and frame construction.

Cantilever Barn
The preserved Cantilever barn, a design in which the upper story was larger than its base, can be seen on the property. The farm animals that rested under the eaves included pigs, hogs, goats, chickens, and in wintertime, cattle. Cattle were kept on the grassy balds of the Great Smoky Mountains during the summer. Gregory’s Bald is one of those balds still in existence today, named for one of the men who made their living looking after the cattle during the summer months. Farm equipment was also kept under the large eaves of the cantilevered barn in order to be kept dry.

Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmiths were a necessity in the Smokies at the time. So, when James V. Cable,smoke house son of John P. Cable inherited the mill and farm from his father, he decided to also become a blacksmith – a much needed trade. Inspiration perhaps came from the many people bringing grain and logs to be milled by means of wagons drawn by mules and horses. Once the products were milled, it was more convenient for his customers to also have their animals shod rather than traveling somewhere else. A primitive service station. About every eight weeks mules and horses needed their metal shoes pulled and reset, so this produced a constant need for blacksmiths.

To reset the horse shoes, the blacksmith had to nip the nail ends off and then pull the shoes off. Then he would trim the hoofs down as they grow like fingernails. Last, the blacksmith had to either reset the old shoe or make new shoes.

But we’re not just talking about making horse shoes, the Smoky Mountain blacksmiths made all sorts of metal products for the home, farm and light industry. Those products included  adzes, axes, bolts, hammers, chains, hinges, plows, nails, hoes, bits, hooks, broadaxes, kitchen knives and drawknives.

whitehead cabinHenry Whitehead Place
Life was still tough in Cades Cove. Divorces and separations occured. Matilda Shields Gregory and her young son were deserted by her husband. But in this community, if you had family nearby, you had help. Gregory’s brothers quickly built a small mountain cabin to give her shelter. This was no small task when you consider that a fireplace and chimney went into it too. The cabin reflects the speed with which they had to obtain shelter for their sister. Literally one of the roughest constructed in Cades Cove. Its stone chimney was made of rubble and the logs were rough-hewn with a felling axe.

Matilda eventually  re-married the widower Henry Whitehead who in 1898, out of sympathy and love built her one of the nicest log homes in Cades Cove. Matilda and Henry Whitehead’s new Cades Cove home had a brick chimney, which was unheard of in Cades Cove during those years. In the Smoky Mountains, if you wanted bricks you had to make them yourself. This consisted of finding clay soil, digging and then filling a hole with water. The surrounding clay soil was then scrapped and stirred with a hoe until thick and smooth, then put into molds where the bricks were dried. The last step was firing the bricks to make them durable. Later Henry stacked his bricks with mortar into one of the first chimneys in Cades Cove.

The Henry and Matilda Whitehead place is the only square-sawed log home remaining in Cades Cove as well as the only one left in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is considered a transition house from the early Cades Cove cabins to the modern frame homes that later were popular in Cades Cove.

Cades Cove Nature Trail
The Spring is the best time to take this trail as the dogwoods will be in bloom. The Fall yields the beautiful red colors of the sourwoods and maples trees. The Nature Trail, once the location of a chestnut tree grove, now has many stately pines and oak trees. Chestnut sprouts still pop up in this area of the Smoky Mountains.

Dan Lawson Place
Lawson married Peter Cable’s daughter and built this cabin for her on property he bought from his father-in-law. This cabin has a brick chimney which was unusual for the Smokies in the 1850’s. A pre-Civil War dwelling, the original cabin was made of hewn logs but was altered at times by the addition of sawed lumber.

Tipton Place in Cades Cove
Miss Lucy and Miss Lizzie were schoolmarms in Cades Cove during the late 1800’s. Daughters of Colonel Hamp Tipton, a revolutionary war veteran, he built this two story home shortly after the Civil War that eventually included a woodshed, corn crib, a smokehouse, a blacksmith shop, cantilever barn, and an apiary for bees. Tipton sold land as well and hence was surrounded by many of his family and friends. A few of those include Joshua Job, Jacob and Isaac Tipton, and Thomas Jones.

Thehouse was rented to James McCaulley in 1878. McCaulley, a blacksmith, was a welcome newcommer to Cades Cove in part because of his profession. In time, McCaulley built his own home along with top quality blacksmith and carpentry shops. McCaulley was a trusted blacksmith, carpenter and coffin maker, and worked in Cades Cove around 25 years.

A Cantilever barn stands across the road from the Tipton house. These barns were once a common sight in the Smokies. This particular cantilever barn is a replica of the barn which stood there in the 1800’s. Notice its huge eaves and two pen design. This design provided complete shelter for stalled animals, and an isle between the pens large enough to accommodate a wagon.

Carter Shields Cabin
carter shields cabin
George Washington “Carter” Shields lived in this Cades Cove cabin named after him from 1910 through 1921. Shields was crippled in the Battle of Shiloh and retired to this beautiful cabin. It’s particularly popular because of the dogwood trees that bloom here in the early spring making it one of the loveliest in Cades Cove.

Sparks Lane–
When you come to Sparks Lane again, you have come to the end of the Cades Cove Auto tour. Sparks Lane is the other end of the first road you saw at the beginning of the Cades Cove loop which cut across the cove. You can turn left on Sparks Lane and repeat the tour or continue on the Cades Cove Loop to go to the picnic tables, the campground or to exit Cades Cove.