Inside Miller’s Cove

Before the arrival of permanent European settlers to the area, Walland was part of a vast Cherokee hunting ground.  Walland is situated in what became known as Miller’s Cove.  This small valley is created by a ridge of Chilhowee Mountain and part of the Little Pigeon River watershed area.  The fertile ground was home to elk and deer and bear and though those animals, with the exception of the elk, are still in these areas at the time the numbers made the area a food source for the indigenous people of the mountains.

Early 1900s Home of James Martin

By the 1780s the first permanent European settlers were arriving in the area. They followed the Cherokee trails into the mountains and found this small cove that would one day be called Walland.  Seeing as the Great Indian Warpath passes through present day Maryville, the people that settled this area built forts to protect themselves and the communities they were trying to establish.  Miller’s Cove takes its name from the Miller brothers that built cabin homes in this area around 1800.  Though they were not the first settlers, it is their name that got donated to the valley.

In 1893, The Walton and England Leather Company sent one of its employees to the Miller’s Cove area to see if there was a suitable place to put a tannery.  And though they also established a tanneryin the newport area, the Miller’s Cove tannery became a huge source of industry.  A tannery was established in Miller’ Cove and a small company town grew up around the facility.  In fact, the name Walland comes from the fusion of the name of the tannery – Walton and England.  When the tannery burned in 1931, the industry in the area shifted to lumber, via the Little River Lumber Company.  The railroad of the lumber company was attached to the railroad that the tannery had established and thus Knoxville and the outside world were connected to Walland and Elkmont, inside what would become the National Park.

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was founded, the area picked up the burgeoning tourism industry and the visitors to the area have been the major part of the economy ever since.  When the Foothills Parkway was approved, one of the first section to be completed was the portion that connected Walland and Chilhowee Lake.  Walland, though it is a narrow spot on the road between Maryville and Townsend, still has lots of historical value and cultural value to the area.

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Next time you are headed to Cades Cove and you will be passing through Townsend, stop in Walland and look around.  This was a site for some of the first major industries in the Smokies.  You might be surprised at what you find in the Walland area.

Townsend, Tn Fall Itinerary

Fall season on the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” might lead one to think that gorgeous views and vistas of fall foliage may be all that Townsend, Tn has to offer during the autumn months. Well, that’s as far from the truth as saying Cades Cove is a “so-so” place to take pictures. From the town’s Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day to the numerous chances to catch local musicians and artisans throughout the area, Townsend, Tn is a hive for fall activity and family fun of all kinds.

So you’re in Townsend for a few days, or a long weekend this fall, well let’s start out with the reason most people come the Smokies each fall – the gorgeous fall colors. Townsend is the perfect place to catch fall in all its splendor whether you’re taking a quick trip around Cades Cove loop road or a longer drive down Rich Mountain Road. Both routes give you a good chance at taking in some picturesque fall scenery. And you can do everything in a day, probably even half a day then get back to town to do something else. If you’re wanting to get a bit further away from town, try driving the Foothills Parkway or the Cherohala Skyway. Both have plenty of magnificent overlooks and historic destinations located along the way.

You’ve got to at least set aside one day just to try the offerings from a few good Townsend restaurants. We suggest a different meal from a different restaurant for each meal. Try camp cooking for at least one meal, or going on a picnic. Some of the area’s best BBQ can be found at such events as the Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Days (Sept. 28 & 29), as well as all kinds of specialty sandwiches, homemade ice cream and desserts, and any other kind local festival-type food you could think of.

Now, while there does seem to be quite a few things to do around town, don’t forget to stray a bit into nature. As mentioned, take a picnic and explore the byways of the Smoky Mountains. Pack a backpack and hike to a beautiful, quiet area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are numerous hikes around Townsend, and especially the Cades Cove area. Find out about biking Townsend, or just stroll over to a nearby stream and throw a line in.

There are musicians and crafts people around town too numerous to even list. The arts and crafts of Townsend come alive in Townsend’s Artisan Guild. Most artists are in their stores daily and love for people to come by and talk with them about their craft…. And purchase a few things too. Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. So come to Townsend, TN this fall and spend a day or two and get back to the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies”.

Rich Mountain Road – A scenic Townsend drive.

If you are a yearly visitor to the Smokies, you probably spend part of one of your days in idyllic Cades Cove.  If you want to change up your trip the next time you head around the loop, try taking Rich Mountain Road.  This rugged journey, that starts almost halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road, is not for everyone but it does offer a different view of the mountains and the valley that is Townsend, TN.  The road is gravel and dirt from start to finish but on a clear day, the views are worth it.

Scenes like this one are prevalent along Rich Mountain Road during the fall.

While there is only one way into Cades Cove, there are three ways out.  Either you can follow Cades Cove Loop road out of Cades Cove, or you can take Rich Mountain Road or Parsons Branch Road.  Rich Mountain Road is the more popular of the two alternative routes as it drops you out in Townsend.  If you have gotten one of the self-guided tour maps you will see the turn off for Rich Mountain Road across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church.  You will turn to the right before you get to the church and follow the road out of Cades Cove.

The road you find yourself on is gravel and dirt the whole way.  Make sure that you are prepared for this because once you start down the road, you will not be able to turn around.  Rich Mountain Road is a one way road that allows you to leave Cades Cove and take an alternate route to Townsend.  During the winter, this road is closed due to bad road conditions. Keep that in mind when you decide to take this alternate route.  Also remember that the road is closed to RVs and campers.  In fact anything bigger than a truck will make some of the turns a little difficult to simply impossible.

Looking down into Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road.

But though the road is twisting and mountainous, you get to see some amazing scenery as you climb your way out of Cades Cove.  One of the highlights is always the view of the Primitive Baptist Church.  The setting is incredible and it is perfectly set against the mountainside for a vacation photograph that you will love to see and take home.  Also, as you creep along the mountain you can watch wildlife that is not as viewed nearly as often as the wildlife in Cades Cove proper.  The animals tend to climb the mountains to get away from the tourist traffic and the possibility to see not only bears but smaller mammals is greater here.  Along the way, you will come across small waterfalls and some old growth forest along the ridge lines as well.

All in all, you need to add Rich Mountain Road to your bucket list.  Make sure at one point while you are on vacation in the Smoky Mountains that you make the trip from Cades Cove down Rich Mountain Road.  Follow this gravel road from the middle of Cades Cove and see a different side of the Smokies as you work your way to the “Peaceful Side” of the Smokies:  Townsend, TN.

Townsend, TN Weather

Townsend, TN is known for truly having all 4 seasons, it is on the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after all. With each season comes even more incredible changes to the landscape than the previous season as spring brings out the area’s natural colors, smells, awakening wildlife, and warming temperatures while summer’s sunny days are perfect for taking a dip in the pool, lake, or one of the many mountain streams.

The most popular season is Fall, to us at least, with the bursting red, orange, and yellow colors; local festivals, and that hint of coolness in the air. The winter season often covers the mountains with a white layer of snow, especially in the higher elevations, making cabins with fireplaces an attractive vacation for locals and visitors to the area as well! There simply isn’t a “bad” time to come to Townsend, TN. There is always something to do on the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” no matter if the sun’s out or the snow is falling!

Well, for all those planners out there, we’ve made a list of the average daily temperatures below as well as links to find the forecast and current weather conditions in Townsend, TN. Townsend’s weather conditions are a work in progress every year, much like the rest of the Smokies so don’t let a little rain in forecast discourage you from enjoying the ever-changing and natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains!

Much is the same for Cades Cove, which is located just outside of Townsend in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades cove receives around 50+ inches of rainfall each year, a good potion of it during the spring and fall. Cades Cove has a pretty dry summer climate, but as always, be prepared for rain if you decide to some hiking or anything else outdoors. In other words, keep a poncho handy. Afternoon showers are fairly common due to in Cades Cove.


Average temperatures in Townsend, TN

Month Avg. High Avg. Low
Jan 46°F 25°F
Feb 51°F 27°F
Mar 61°F 34°F
Apr 69°F 43°F
May 77°F 53°F
Jun 84°F 61°F
Jul 87°F 65°F
Aug 86°F 64°F
Sep 81°F 57°F
Oct 71°F 43°F
Nov 59°F 35°F
Dec 50°F 27°F

Insider tip:
Get weather and road condition information in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN by calling:
Using your cell phone in TN: 511
Nationally: 1-877-244-0065
Locally in Townsend: (865)436-1200

Enjoy summer in Townsend, TN!

Tubers at the Townsend Wye.

It’s summertime which means the kids are out of school, the temperature has the mercury rising, and you’re looking for fun things to do locally that can fill up some of those idle days. Townsend’s summer offerings grow with each passing year from tubing the Wye to new ranger programs offered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And there’s always Cades. Visitors have flocked to the cove for years each summer to explore whether by bike or foot.

To get you started, we suggest starting your itinerary in the national park. With so many waterfalls to take in, you’re bound to find a trail leading to at least one – try hiking to Abrams Falls by way of  the Abrams Falls Trail. Need a map? They’re available for anyone to pick up at the Townsend Visitors Center. Looking for something different? As previously mentioned, throw a tube into the Little River and let the current do the rest. There are numerous outfitters in town located on the banks of the river to rent a tube, or tubes, for a day. If not, just play in water or dip your line in and enjoy the countless summer hours fishing for some of the best Smoky Mountain trout you’ll find. The visitors center also holds a  pottery festival each June if you’re more inclined to spend part of your day inside.

Maybe spending as much time in a more natural setting is your cup of tea. Well, you won’t find a place to get more familiar with the outdoors than you’ll find in Townsend. Townsend is home to a number widely used campgrounds as well as one located in Cades Cove that you’re sure to find one that suits you and your needs. Summers are the perfect time for a cook out and a late night campfire. Roast a few marshmallows and tell some ghost stories while making memories that will last a lifetime. If you feel like trekking closer into Gatlinburg, stop by the Sugarlands Visitors Center and catch the amazing synchronous fireflies (early to mid June) at Elkmont.

Summer is also concert season around Townsend. You’ll find an array of concerts and jam sessions in the area. Just pick a date. Listen to local musicians and visit with instrument builders. Or, attend one of the town’s week-long acoustic music camps and learn how to pick a guitar, banjo, or Dobro with the best of them. There’s so much going on this summer in Townsend it’s hard to just come down for a day. So stay a while, or a week, or be our guest for the entire summer. You’ll won’t regret a Townsend summer.

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

GPS in the Smokies

These days, if you’re planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a handy piece of technology to have in hand is a Global Positioning System or GPS. For nature lovers, it may even be one of the greatest inventions in the last 20 years.

By just affixing one of these small computers to the windshield of any car, you are afforded turn by turn navigation. Since its introduction just a few years ago, it has become an integral part of the way many people travel. Still, a paper map or atlas can come in handy and still have their place among travelers. A number of Smoky Mountain roads won’t come up on a GPS.

Here’s one example: During a recent January trip to Valle Crucis and Blowing Rock, North Carolina there was snow on the sides of the road but it had been warm enough to keep the roads from being icy. What the GPS won’t tell you is that Hwy 321 has a detour. This detour is well-marked on the way up affording fort a nice scenic drive to Valle Crucis on Hwy 421. All the work was done by the GPS and its recalculations. On the trip back from Blowing Rock, the detour’s signage was not as visible and the GPS took Hwy 421 all the way back to East Tennessee.  This route also takes you through the Cherokee National Forest.

Take advantage of this quick excursion through the Cherokee National Forest – it’s a beautiful area of the country!  It can be a bit more hazardous during the winter though, especially if you are not expecting a mountain drive on a small road through the Cherokee National Forest. Once you start, don’t turn around, it’s just as hazardous backtracking as it is forging ahead. Rest assured that these roads are salted regularly when there is the forecast of a winter storm.

As previously mentioned, one would think that being 2012, every road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – one of the most visited natural areas in the country, would be on your global positioning system.  Not so in this case.  Just try getting to one of those cabins on top of some ridge overlooking the Smokies. Another question, why don’t cabin rental companies just give out the address of the cabin they are staying in? The answer is simply that most of the time the address you’re seeking is not going to get you to the cabin you have rented.  As fast as the Smokies have grown the past two decades, its wishful thinking that during that time every road has been added to even the most recent GPS maps. To that end, follow the directions that the check in office provides for you. Naturally, they’ve chosen the easiest path to get you to your cabin. They know the area, you may not.

Additional tips for getting around the Great Smoky Mountains:

  • Pick up a map at one of the numerous rest areas.
  • Store the map in your car.
  • Save the location you are staying at in your GPS –then you will always be able to get back.
  • Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path, but remember how you got there so you can retrace your steps on your next trip.

Take these tips to heart.  Don’t be afraid to use your GPS, but realize that you may need a traditional map along your journey as well.  Save one for the area you are visiting for future use.  If you are on a detour you may want to consult the map before entering navigation points into your GPS.  And instead of asking for an address to your cabin, follow the directions that they give you with your check-in packet.  Your family will thank you.

Handicapped Accessible Areas in Townsend

As far as vacation tips for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park goes, many people ask about handicap parking and other accessible areas before making the trip. In Townsend, while some of these designated areas can be hard to find, they’re well worth the trip.

The majority of the picnic areas around the national park are not accessible to handicapped individuals.  Most are just your everyday picnic table, which is fine for most users, but for someone who is handicapped, a standard picnic table can be very difficult to maneuver around.  You’ll also find that reaching these areas requires a trip down a small dirt or gravel pathway.  These trails can make getting to the picnic areas, well, not quite a picnic.  Still there are places near the park where this is not the case.  In Townsend, Tn, otherwise known as the “Peaceful side of the Smokies”, there are several handicap-accessible picnic areas.

One such place overlooks the Little River in Townsend. While it is a bit off the beaten path, it’s well worth seeking out if you have someone in your group that requires a little assistance to enjoy the family picnic.  Coming into Townsend from Pigeon Forge or Wears Valley, take a right when you get to the junction of Wears Valley Road and Hwy 321.  There will be signs for Tuckaleechee Caverns followed by a few small blue signs indicating handicapped accessible picnic areas and where each is located.

The walk to the picnic tables is paved. The curb is ramped to allow wheelchair-bound visitors or someone on crutches an easy way to get up to the picnic area.  There are no gravel or dirt pavements here so no need to worry about accidentally flipping over trying to get to the tables.

Each of these picnic tables are built with a person in a wheelchair or mobility assistance device in mind.  One side of the table is unencumbered with enough room for a wheelchair to pull up to.  No longer does the person in the wheelchair have to feel left out because they cannot get up to the picnic table.  No longer does the person with special needs have to worry about having their traveling companions help them into the picnic table.

All these handicapped accessible picnic tables are right on the water.  Want to take a swim in the cool mountain water of the Little River? Go right ahead. Want to cast your rod for some brown trout? Throw your line in right here. Moreover, these picnic areas are designed with the handicapped individual in mind. Making sure that everyone in your party can enjoy their trip to the Smoky Mountains is always on the mind of the people on this side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Appalachian Bear Rescue

When it comes to Townsend, TN and the town’s relationship with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, some of its best work can be seen through the efforts of a small group that started the Appalachian Bear Rescue in 1996.

Over the years the black bear has come to symbolize all the wildlife that makes up the National Park and through the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR), volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep it that way. In all, ABR is a one-of-a-kind, black bear rehabilitation facility located in Townsend. Appalachian Bear Rescue is also a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that strives to return all orphaned and injured black bears to the wild, as well as those bears that are in need of urgent medical care.

According to a recent WVLT report out of Knoxville, some orphaned bear cubs are searching for food this time of year instead of trying to find a den for winter. This is where Appalachian Bear Rescue steps in to help.

“They’ve been in a desperate search for food all year,” Lisa Stewart, Appalachian Bear Rescue Curator, told WVLT. “Right now we are encountering a terrible food crisis for our bears and we’re seeing many orphan cubs needing to come to facility.”

Through the end of November, the Appalachian Bear Rescue had taken in a record number of bear cubs – 31 – topping the previous high of 23 in 2009. Some are even starving to death when they arrive.

“We are seeing bears come in that are supposed to be 70 pounds but seeing them at 15 pounds,” said Jack Burgin, president of Appalachian Bear Rescue.

With rehabilitation so expensive, donations from the public help the ABR nurse the black bears back to health and releases them into the wild – a practice that in reality has been ongoing in these parts since the late 80s.

A severe hard mast (nut and seed) shortage in 1989 had driven black bears into lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains to look for food. The starving bears combined with humans reluctant to go near the bears left an unusually large number of orphaned cubs. When a concerned group of volunteers noticed this trend, they decided to form the Appalachian Black Bear & Release Center Inc. in the summer of 1990 to help the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park care for the orphaned cubs.

It started out as the Appalachian Bear Center, and efforts centered around raising money, acquiring land and building a fenced area to care for the bears. The center’s first bear, “Zero”, arrived on July 8, 1996, and was released on September 20, 1996. The ABC’s first full-time curator, Daryl Ratajczak, started on June 9, 1997, and promptly began caring for three yearling bears.

By 1999, word of ABC’s success led other states to ask for its help. Since then, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina have all asked ABC/ABR to help care for their severely malnourished cubs. Lisa Stewart, who now serves as curator, was hired in April 2003, and began work a few days early to help care for a bear named “Lucky.” Since then, ABC/ABR has continuously cared for at least one bear or cub, although there are usually many more. To date, the Applalachian Bear Rescue has assisted more than 95 bears by returning them to the wild.

For more information on the Appalachian Bear Rescue, or to make a donation, visit the ABR’s website.