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.

Townsend Winter Heritage Festival (Feb. 2-5, 2012)

The Townsend Winter Heritage Festival is a seasonal celebration of the natural beauty, heritage, and cultural traditions of Townsend, TN; Cades Cove; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The event combines a number of the areas most renowned businesses and community groups in one large get-together.  It’s a FREE event, with the exception of lunches and dinners, where there are reservations required, with a charge for each meal.  Music workshops also require pre-registration.

So, whether it’s music and live performances that you like, or southern cuisine like some of the area’s best BBQ, or getting more familiar with nature and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend’s Winter Heritage Festival really answers the call to the Smokies-lover in all of us. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, Townsend, and spend some time with the family.

Some of this year’s festival highlights include:

Festival Kick Off at the Blount Co. Historical Museum: Hear storyteller Charles Maynard, listen to live music with Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, view the various Civil War exhibits, and get refreshments at the kick-off celebration. Thursday, Feb. 2, 6-8pm.

Special musical guest:  Wayne Erbsen
Come listen to the sounds of Wayne Erbson on Saturday evening, Feb. 4. He will also be presenting an Appalachian music workshop that afternoon. Call 865-448-6134 to sign up.

Mountain Dulcimer Workshop with Sarah Morgan:  If you’ve ever had an interest in the dulcimer and its beginnings sign up for Sarah Morgan’s workshop Friday afternoon, Feb. 3.  Call 865-448-6134 for details and to sign up.  Limit 20.

Sarah Morgan holds her annual Mountain Dulcimer workshop.

Music of the Civil War: We know that there are always a number of Civil War enthusiasts among our visitors. It’s not always you get to hear the songs and music they went to battle to. This presentation includes tunes and songs with Conny Ottway at the Chocolate B’ar, Friday, Feb. 3.

Listen to a great Young Fiddler – Carson Peters
Carson will be fiddlin’ up a storm with his family at the Mountain Music Showcase on Saturday. It’s a performance not to be missed!

Cast Iron Cooking by members of the Blount County Fire Protection District will take place Saturday, Feb. 4.  Come by and taste some delicious cobblers, biscuits, beans and more!

Lunchtime Programs: at the Chocolate B’ar Cafe, with good food, talks, and music, both days. Friday: Conny Ottway, sponsored by Rocky Branch Community Club Saturday: Tommy and Tammi McCarroll with Bobby Fulcher, sponsored by The Chocolate B’ar.  Call for lunch reservations, 865-448-9432.

Friday evening at Dancing Bear Lodge, with supper and entertainment by flute player Randy McGinnis.  Reservations required.  865-448-6000.

Saturday night BBQ Supper at The Barn Event Center: with Wayne Erbsen concert sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association, and called country dance with live band “The Truffle Hounds”, sponsored by Big Meadow Campground. Saturday evening, Feb. 4.  Reservations required. 865-448-3812.

Book-signing: Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures, Bill Landry; Noon to 3:00pm both days at the Townsend Visitors Center.

“Precious Memories” Homecoming with the Cades Cove Preservation Association on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 5. Location to be announced.

Full Winter Heritage Festival Schedule Day by Day:

Schedule subject to changes and for updates call 865-448-6134.

(Events with a * require pre-registration and those with meals have a charge.)


Thursday, Feb. 2: 


At Blount County Historical Museum and Cades Cove/Thompson Brown Museum:

– 6-8pm: “Festival Kick-Off”, Blount County Historical Museum and Cades Cove/Thompson Brown Museum.  Civil War Exhibit, refreshments, and 6:30pm storytelling by Charles Maynard, plus music by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day.


Friday, February 3:  Events take place at several locations.


At Townsend Visitors Center:

– 9-9:45am:  “Cora’s Story”, Cherel Henderson, East Tennessee Historical Society.

– 10-10:45am: “Preserving our Heritage-The Foothills Land Conservancy”, Elise Eustace, Foothills Land Conservancy.

– 11-11:45am: “Thomas Sumter”, Charlie Rhodarmer, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.

– Noon-3pm: Book-signing by Bill Landry, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures.

– 2-3pm: “Mountain Dulcimer Workshop” * with Sarah Morgan. To register, call 865-448-6134. (Free) Limit 20.  Sponsored by Friends of the Smokies.

– 3:15-4:15pm: “Music of the Mountains”, Lisa Free.

– 4:30-5:15pm: “Black Leaders of Blount Co. during Reconstruction”, Robert Glenn Slater, University of Tennessee.


At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:

Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9am-5pm: Cades Cove Preservation Association talks and Families of Cades Cove exhibits.


– 9-9:45am:  “Bear Creek Tales”, Lonnie McMillan

– 10-10:45am:  “A Cades Cove Long Rifle”, Stephen Weber

– 11-11:45am:  “Horace Kephart-The Back of Beyond”, Butch McDade

– Noon  (Lunch break)

– 1-1:45pm:  “Living in the Cove”, Bernard Myers

– 2-2:45pm:    “Sacred Places of the Smokies”, Gail Palmer

– 3pm: Panel Discussion, Cades Cove Preservation Association


At Little River Railroad Museum:

– 3-4pm: “Walking Tour of Townsend”, Don Headrick.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Cades Cove:

– 1-3pm:  “Hike to Gourley Pond” *, Ranger Mike Maslona.  Meet at the Lequire family cemetery on the far side of the Cades Cove Loop Rd.  *Call 865-448-6134 to sign up.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Tremont:

– 9-11am: “Waterfall Hike”, Dawn Dextraze.  Meet at the Tremont Visitors Center (office).


At The Chocolate B’ar:

– 11am-12pm: “Music of the Civil War”, Conny Ottway. Sponsored by Rocky Branch Community Club. Followed by lunch.

Call for lunch reservations * : 865-448-9433 or 865-448-9895.


At Townsend Artisan Gallery:

– 4-6pm: “Open House and Artist Reception”


At Dancing Bear Lodge:

– 6:30-8:30pm: Dinner and entertainment by Native American flute player Randy McGinnis.  * Reservations needed:  865-448-6000.


Saturday, February 4: Events take place at several locations


At Townsend Visitors Center:

Mountain Craft Showcase:

– 9-9:45am: “Dollmaking”, Carolyn Gregory.

– 9:45-10:30am: “Pottery”, Carol Ware.


– 11-11:45am: “The Forgotten Baskets of the Mountains”, Bill Alexander.

– 11:45am-12:30pm: “Blacksmithing”, Hugh Bowie.

Mountain Music Showcase:

– 1:30-2:30pm: “Appalachian Music Workshop”, Wayne Erbsen. * Call 865-448-6134 to sign up (free)

– 2:45-3:45pm: “Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band”, Carson Peters and family

– 4-5pm: “The Mountain Dulcimer”, Sarah Morgan

The Mountain Craft and Mountain Music Showcases are funded by an Arts Build Communities Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and a sponsorship from Great Smoky Mountains Association for Wayne Erbsen.

– 11am for White Oak Sinks Hike, Butch Mcdade.  11am-3PM.  Meet on Townsend Visitors Center front porch and carpool to trailhead.

– Noon-3pm: Book-signing by Bill Landry, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures.

– 11am-5pm: Cast Iron Cooking Demonstration with members of the Blount County Fire Protection District.

– 10am-5pm: Cherokee Finger Weaving by Charaity Hubbard and Historic Weapons Display with David Hubbard.


At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:

Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9am-5pm: Cades Cove Preservation Association talks and Families of Cades Cove exhibits.

Saturday, Feb. 4:

– 9-9:45am: “Smoky Mountain Bears, Bucks, and Wildflowers-A Video Presentation”, Kate Marshall

– 10-10:45am: “Bloomery Forge in Cades Cove”, David Ledbetter

– 11-11:45am:  “A Park by Any Other Name”, Kent Cave and Raymond Palmer

– 12:00  (Lunch break)

– 1-1:45pm:  “Noah and Sarah Brown Burchfield of Cades Cove”, Larry Sparks

– 2-2:45pm  “Photographers and Photos of Cades Cove”, Missy Green

– 3pm: Panel Discussion, Cades Cove Preservation Association


At Little River Railroad Museum:

– 10am-12pm: “Tremont Walking Tour”, Ron Briggs.

– 3-4pm: “Logging Railroads of the Smokies” Rick Turner.


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-Tremont:

– 10:30am-12:30pm:  “Winter Tree ID Hike”, Ken Voorhis.  Meet at the Tremont Visitors Center (office).


In Great Smoky Mountains National Park-White Oak Sinks Hike:

– 11am-3pm:  “Hike to White Oak Sinks”, Butch McDade.  Meet on the front porch of the Townsend Visitors Center and carpool to trailhead.


In Great Smoky  Mountains National Park-Little Greenbrier/Walker Sisters:

– 11am-2:30pm: “Hike to the Walker Sisters Family and Friends Homesites”, Mark and Janet Snyder.  Bring a sack lunch, drink, raingear, and good hiking shoes.  There will be off-trail walking.  Meet at the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.


At The Chocolate B’ar:

– 11am-12pm: “Old Time Mountain Music”, Tommy and Tammy McCarroll and Bob Fulcher. Sponsored by The Chocolate B’ar.  Followed by lunch.

Call for lunch reservations *: 865-448-9433 or 865-448-9895.

At Townsend Artisan Gallery:

– 9am-4pm: “Open House and Demonstrations by Artists”


At The Barn Event Center:

– 6pm:  Doors open; 6:30pm: BBQ Supper.  * Call 865-448-3812 for reservations, $25.

– 7-8pm: Wayne Erbsen Concert. Sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

– 8-9pm: Country Dance with caller and live band, “The Truffle Hounds”. Sponsored by Big Meadow Family Campground.


Sunday, February 5

At Location to be announced:

– 2-4pm: “Precious Memories-Cades Cove Homecoming”, Cades Cove Preservation Association.  Refreshments and sharing time.  865-448-6134.

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.

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

The phrase “Connecting people and nature in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” is one you’re bound to hear often at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tn. It suits the program well as it’s one that relies heavily on the experience of their students in nature.

The education programs provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont celebrate the ecological and cultural diversity of the Smokies, while helping those that seek a greater understanding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself. Through such programs as Wilderness First Responder courses, photo workshops, hiking adventures, and naturalist certification, the Institute is able to carry out its mission.

“Connecting people and nature.” What is the meaning behind it? What’s the Great Smoky Mountains Institute’s common thread? Who do we serve and how does motto connect with our programs?

Questions like these are constantly asked and expounded upon at the Smokies Institute. The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont believes that three strands make up its purpose and include a Sense of Place, Diversity, and Stewardship. These strands weave the thread that flows through each lesson and program offered.

The following are ideas and values that these themes represent:

Sense of Place

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a unique and inspiring place.
  • Wild places like the Smokies are important to the health of our planet.
  • Each of us is a part of our “home” ecosystem. These same “sense of place” attitudes should be transferred to our home ecosystem.


  • There is tremendous diversity within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • The Smokies have been and continue to be affected by people of diverse interests and perspectives.
  • We can learn much about ourselves by living in a community with people of diverse backgrounds, philosophies, and cultures.


  • We have a responsibility for preserving and caring for the Smokies and places like it.
  • Preserving places like the Smokies means learning about their problems and working to help.
  • Our lifestyle and daily habits can be adjusted to have minimal impact upon the environment.

Tremont 2012 Program Calendar

January 2012
13-15 Bernheim Middle School, Shepherdsville, KY
15-22 Wilderness First Responder
21 Winter Woody Plant ID
February 2012
3-5 Wilderness First Responder Refresher
10-12 Family Adventure Weekend
13-17 The Cornerstone School, Ocala, FL
15-17 New Horizon Montessori School, Louisville, TN
17-19 SANCP: Interpretation and Naturalist Skills
17-19 Likin’ Lichens Workshop
19-24 East Hardin Middle School, Glendale, KY
20-22 Eagleton Middle School, Maryville, TN
24-26 Immaculate Conception Cathedral High School, Memphis, TN
24-28 Lebanon Special School District, Lebanon, TN
27-March 2 Lenoir City Middle School, Lenoir City, TN
28-March 2 Bruno Montessori, Birmingham, AL
March 2012
2-5 Rockwood School District, Eureka, MO
5-7 Hazelwood West Middle School, Hazelwood, MO
5-7 Oak Mountain Academy, Carrolton, GA
7-9 MacDonald Intermediate School, Fort Knox, KY
7-9 Seymour Community Christian School, Seymour, TN
9-12 Rockwood School District, Eureka, MO
12-16 Old Trail School, Bath, OH
14-18 Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA
16-18 Spring City Middle School, Spring City, TN
18-24 Spring Outdoor Recreation Consortium
24 Smokies Scavenger Hunt
25-27 Woodward Academy, Atlanta, GA
26-30 St. Mary of the Lake School, New Buffalo, MI
28-30 St. Luke’s Episcopal School, Mobile, AL
30- April 2 Rockwood School District, Eureka, MO
April 2012
2-4 Christ Presbyterian Academy, Nashville, TN
4-6 Randolph School, Huntsville, AL
7-9 Seymour Community Christian School, Seymour, TN
9-12 Faith Christian School, Summerville, SC
9-14 Spring Hiking Road Scholar
13-15 McDowell Early College, Marion, NC
13-15 Winton Woods High School, Cincinnati, OH
16-18 Jackson Christian School, Jackson, TN
16-20 Sycamore School, Indianapolis, IN
18-20 St. Anne’s Middle School, Bristol, VA
20-23 Spring Photography Workshop
23-27 Holy Comforter Episcopal School, Tallahassee, FL
27-30 Rockwood School District, Eureka, MO
30- May 2 Boyd Christian School, McMinnville, TN
30- May 4 Rockford Elementary School, Rockford, TN
May 2012
2-4 Eagleton Elementary, Maryville, TN
4-6 Trinity Christian School, Apopka, FL
4-6 SANCP: Birds of the Smokies
4-6 SANCP: Plants
7-9 Calvin Donaldson Env. Science Academy, Chattanooga, TN
7-9 Woodlawn School – 6th Grade, Davidson, NC
9-11 Jones Valley Elementary, Huntsville, AL
11-13 Scottsboro City Gifted Program, Scottsboro, AL
12 Birdwatching at Cades Cove
13-17 Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School, St. Louis, MO
18-21 Rockwood School District, Eureka, MO
21-23 St. Paul Lutheran School, Peachtree City, GA
June 2012
3 Walker Valley Reunion
11-16 Discovery Camp I
11-16 Wilderness Adventure Trek
11-16 Girls in Science Camp
18-23 Smoky Mountain Science Teacher Institute
18-23 Trout Unlimited Camp
18-23 NCSU Wildlife Camp
22-28 Camp Quest
25-30 Discovery Camp II
25-30 Wilderness Adventure Trek II
25-30 Backcountry Ecological Expedition
July 2012
2-7 Smoky Mountain Family Camp
6 Albright Grove Old Growth Hike
9-14 Discovery Camp III
9-19 Teen High Adventure
9-19 Field Ecology Adventure
23-27 SANCP: Reptiles and Amphibians
23-27 SANCP: Aquatic Natural History
23-27 Teacher Quality Workshop
August 2012
6-11 Natural Resources College Consortium
10-11 Leadership Blount
September 2012
3-8 Fall Outdoor Recreation Consortium
8-9 Teacher Escape Weekend
16 Homecoming
21-23 SANCP: Southern Appalachian Ecology
21-23 SANCP Advanced: Advanced Naturalist Field Skills
October 2012
6-7 Teacher Escape Weekend
7-13 Fall Hiking Road Scholar
19-21 Women’s Backpack
19-21 Autumn Brilliance Photography Workshop
November 2012
2-4 Teacher Workshop Climate Change
2-4 SANCP: Mammals

The Cades Cove Campground Store

The Cades Cove Loop Road is everyone’s go-to point when discussing a trip to Cades Cove in Townsend, TN. But what about once you’re there, have traversed the loop, and now you’re deciding what to do next? Where can you take a break, or get a bite to eat?

The loop can be an exceptionally long 11 miles at times, something to quench your thirst or your appetite might be in order – especially if you’re traveling with small children Being in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, most people decide to go to the Cades Cove Campground Store. Most people don’t even know it’s there and that’s a real shame. At the Cades Cove Campground store you can purchase food and drink, convenience items, rent bicycles and get some of the best ice cream around during those hot summer days.

For those of you still thinking, “it’s only 11 miles, it won’t take that long”, you’d be surprised. Depending on the time of year, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours. On average, during the summer months especially, the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove is going to take a few hours. When you finish the loop and the kids are clamoring for something to eat, take a right when you come off the loop road. Across from the Ranger station you’ll see the Cades Cove Campground Store. Pull into the parking lot and head inside for something to eat. There is plenty of food for everyone, from burgers and chips to pizza and nachos; they’ve got all the summer staples. The store is also located right next to the picnic area, near River Road. So, if it’s a picnic you’re after, stop by the campground store for all the trimmings and enjoy your next meal in Cades Cove.

Bicycles to rent at the Cades Cove Campground Store.

Another of the perks offered at the Cades Cove Campground Store is bicycle rental. Bikes can be rented by the hour and taken around the loop. The one-way, slow traffic on the Cades Cove Loop Road means that you’re ensured a safe ride. The loop road only allows a meandering pace for cars giving cyclists an easy glide throughout the Cove. Geared bike rentals start at $6 per hour for adults and $4 per hour for kids. This is an ideal activity for anyone staying at the campground that has kids. Wednesday and Saturday mornings throughout the year the road is closed to motor vehicle traffic and bike riders have the loop road to themselves. You can choose to bike the full 11 miles or you can take the Sparks Lane cut off and bike only 4 miles.

Whether you choose to bike or drive the loop road, reward yourself with a snack when you’re finished. Many say that the Cades Cove Campground Store has the best ice cream in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a delicious treat as you’re traveling through Cades Cove. Be sure that the Cades Cove Campground Store is a part of your next Townsend getaway.

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.

Townsend Restaurant Listing

Listing of Townsend Restaurants

Townsend, Tennessee is known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” for many reasons, be it the more outdoor opportunities related to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but also for the little things like the cozy cafes and small businesses that dot Townsend’s main thoroughfare.  A large part of Townsend’s draw are the many local Townsend restaurants visitors and locals have to choose from, away from the national chain selections.  Down home cooking, or for some of us just good comfort food, is Townsend‘s specialty and gives the feeling of being back at your grandmother’s kitchen table.  With that said, there are a number of delicious out of the way places to eat that will tempt and tantalize your taste buds.

The Dancing Bear Restaurant
137 Apple Valley Way
Townsend, TN

Miss Lily’s Café
122 Depot St
Townsend, TN 37882

Little River BBQ
8303 Highway 73
Townsend, TN

Riverstone Family Restaurant (above)
8503 Highway 73
Townsend, TN 37882

Olson’s River Grill
7613 Old Highway 73
Townsend, TN 37882

Picnic Pantry Café
117 Painted Trillium Way
Townsend, TN

Burger Master Drive In
8439 Highway 73
Townsend, TN 37882

Smoky Junction Restaurant
7735 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN

Black Bear Café
7621 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

Smokin’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que
8303 State Hwy 73
Townsend, TN 37882

Carriage House Restaurant
8310 Highway 73
Townsend, TN 37882

Back Porch Restaurant
7018 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

Lil’ Cuban Café
7249 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

Apple Valley Kitchen
7138 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

Timbers Restaurant
8123 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37782

Hearth & Kettle
7767 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

 For specific Townsend restaurant reviews, check out our reviews page featuring two of the many great local eateries – Riverstone Family Restaurant and the Picnic Pantry Cafe. Looking for a Smoky Mountain cabin in Townsend, or a local campground? Well, we have listings of those too.

Townsend, TN 2012 Calendar of Events

2012 Townsend Events and Festivals:

January – March: Attend classes on rug hooking, basketry, pottery, sewing, flat-picking guitar, among others. Townsend, Tn classes and workshops

February 2 – 5: Townsend’s Winter Heritage Festival in the Smokies is an event celebrating the human history, natural beauty, and cultural traditions of Townsend, Cades Cove, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Guests can enjoy a variety of presentations, storytelling, music, walks, exhibits, and tours—at the Visitors Center, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tremont, and other businesses and organizations around Townsend. Townsend Winter Heritage Festival

March 16 – 17:  Smoky Mountain Fiber Arts Festival is hosted by the Townsend Artisan Guild, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. This interactive fiber arts event connects the community with fiber arts activities.  The festival will include Border collie sheep-herding, sheep-shearing, classes and workshops, arts exhibitions, educational demonstrations of fiber processes, spinning, weaving, needlecrafts, dyeing, hands-on projects with children and adults, Fiber Arts Market and more.

April 7:  Herb and Wildflower Day, 9:00am—3:00pm. A tribute to the beauty and fascination of wildflowers, ferns, trees, and herbs.  Visit with expert botanists, photographers, and naturalists.  Buy locally grown plants, delicious baked goods, and fine hand-made pottery.  Take a short walk in the woods or a longer exploration of a special place. Townsend Herb and Wildflower Day

April – December: The public are welcome to view the Arts and Crafts Exhibits and Demonstrations in the Visitor Center Exhibit Room.  Visit with and buy directly from talented, local artists.  Townsend Arts & Crafts Exhibits and Demos

May 4 & 5:  20th Annual Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day.  A heaping helping of your favorite bluegrass music, a Young Pickers Talent Contest, arts and crafts, Appalachian skills, wildflower walks and garden tours, storytelling, BBQ and other good food at the town’s annual Spring Festival and Old Timers Day. Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day

May 18 – 20: Trout Fest. If you’re an avid fly fisher, or just into fishing, Trout Fest is like Sundance is to movie enthusiasts. That is, it’s a must see. It’s an annual fly fishing exposition and fund-raiser for Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fisheries Department in Townsend, TN.  Sponsored by the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  Fly fishing demonstrations and seminars by experts are given daily.  Music, children’s activities, exhibits, and food are provided on the grounds.  TroutFest


Townsend's Scottish Heritage Festival & Games is always a popular yearly event.

May 18 – 20: Smoky Mountain Highland Games.  A celebration of Scottish Heritage at the foot of the Smoky Mountains with traditional games, a gathering of the clans, Scottish dance, music, and athletic contests.  Smoky Mountain Highland Games

June 2:  Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival.  Enjoy the work of skilled artisans and see pottery being made at this juried show with 40 booths.  There will be hands-on demonstrations by the featured a guest potter, plus special firings by Joe Frank McKee, hand building by Hugh Bailey, 30 potters booths, Children’s Tent with Carol Ware, music, and good food.  Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival

September 28 & 29: 20th Anual Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day.  The fall version of Townsend’s spring classic featuring some of your favorite bluegrass music, clogging, arts and crafts, sorghum molasses making and other Appalachian skills, artisan demonstrations, family activities, and good food.  Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day

For more information about each of the Townsend events and festivals contact Jeanie Hilten at the Townsend Visitors Center at 865-448-6134 or 800-525-6834.

Riverstone Family Restaurant

The Riverstone Family Restaurant is located on the National Park end of Townsend.  Being one of the few restaurants that is open for all three meals of the day means you can sample some good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and any meal that you eat there is worth your time.  Whether you are hungry for a steak or for a sandwich, this restaurant is a great place to dine.

In a town the size of Townsend sometimes your culinary options are limited.  When you include the fact that there is only one fast food restaurant in Townsend you may find it hard to locate places to eat.  Breakfast can especially be hard on the new visitor to Townsend.  Riverstone Family Restaurant provides a sumptuous breakfast with lots of choices.  From omelets to a la carte there is something for the whole family on the breakfast menu.  One of the favorites is their country ham breakfast.  Eggs, grits and hashbrowns are combined with a thick cut piece of country ham.  Country ham, of course, is salt cured ham that is very traditional in Southern cooking.

Come on back for lunch or supper, as well.  And when you do, save room for an appetizer.  The fried green tomatoes at the Riverstone Family Restaurant are to die for.  Breaded, thick cut and fried perfectly they are a highlight to any meal.  If you have never experienced fried green tomatoes, this is a perfect opportunity.  Their sandwiches are also to be mentioned.  The Riverstone Burger is a huge sandwich that can satisfy an appetite of any size.  They even have vegetarian selections on their menu, including a garden Burger.  The entrees are the highlight though, and why it is recommended to aim toward this section of the menu.  They have most of what you would expect to see on a family restaurant menu:  steaks, grilled chicken, country fried steak, etc.  They also have some specialties:  country ham, rainbow trout, beef liver and onions and frog legs.  These are real Southern specialties; if you haven’t tried them before then you should do yourself a favor and sample one of these epicurean delights.

The Riverstone Family Restaurant also has a good, down-home atmosphere.  Oil tablecloths and the various knick-knacks on the wall take you back to your grandmother’s home.  There is a good bit of Townsend history on the walls of the dining room and in one case you literally are in the dining room of the house that has been turned into a restaurant.  The fireplace crackles in the corner and everyone gets that warm cozy feeling you should have while enjoying a family meal.

Combine the food with the atmosphere and you have a memorable meal on your hands.  Eat a couple of meals at the Riverstone Family Restaurant, it’s one of our favorite Townsend restaurants.  You will be hard pressed to find a better breakfast anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  If you have been hiking all day and you need a meal that is going to stick to your ribs, then you have found your destination.