|Date Visited: November 7, 2010|
|Check current conditions: Great Smoky Mountains National Park (865) 436-1200|
On our first full day in the majestic Smokies last Fall, Jeff and I took a self-guided driving tour through the Cades Cove Historic District…after a long lazy morning sleeping in, drinking coffee, rocking and porch-sittin’ on the deck of our beautiful Smokies cabin. Cades Cove is the single most visited location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yeah…usually the very type of spot we try to avoid on vacations, however I am a big time history buff. So, we decided to suck it up and venture out to the cove for a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Cades Cove is a serene scenic valley located in eastern Tennessee, near Townsend, in the western Appalachians. First settled by Euro-Americans in 1818, farming and logging provided the most economic opportunities for the small community until the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (chartered in 1934 and dedicated in 1940) pushed the last stronghold of residents out through eminent domain in 1937.
The majority of visitors choose to see Cades Cove via an 11-mile long one way driving loop through the community, although some people choose to take it in on foot or bicycle. In fact, between early May through late September of each year, only bicyclists and pedestrians are allowed on the road from sunrise until 10:00am. The park suggests two to four hours to complete the tour — leaning towards the latter on weekends and during the peak summer and fall seasons.
A visitor center is located at the half-way point of the scenic loop, and is definitely worth checking out. For one thing, it offers the only restrooms and food in the historic district. But, aside from those necessities it houses a very well maintained and managed historic interpretive and reenactment community of buildings — all relocated here by the park — and volunteers. The gift shop is stocked with some really cool locally produced goods and foods, as well as books chronicling the cultural, culinary and artisan history of the area. And during the fall months, you can watch historical interpreters make and sell traditional sorghum molasses.
Even if you aren’t as much of a history nerd as I am, you definitely must stop by Cades Cove on any first time visit to the national park. The scenery is spectacular, but more importantly, the cove represents the long drawn out contentious battle between the National Park Service and the type of hearty proud Appalachian folk who fought against being driven from lands they cultivated and called home for generations.
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