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The Lost Cove of Cataloochee

Tucked in the remote southeastern corner of the Smokies is is a place of rare and special beauty, what some call the lost cove of Cataloochee.cataloochee

I think of it as the almost forgotten side of the Smokies.  Forgotten may not be entirely true but for sure it is less traveled and less well known than many other areas of the Great Smoky Mt National Park (which means less crowded too!)  It is a bit harder to get to but well worth the effort.  Located approximately 65 miles from Gatlinburg and 39 miles from Pigeon Forge, the easiest and most scenic route is I-40 to Exit 20 (US 276). then look for Cove Creek Rd about .2 of a mile on the right.  The road is paved for 4 miles, gravel for 3 then back to pavement.  The gravel section is narrow with some sharp curves and  can be rough at times.

While Cataloochee seems to be a lost or forgotten area now, not long ago that wasn’t so. It was once the largest settlement in the Smokies with more than 1200 people.  It was an early thoroughfare for travelers through the mountains, used by animals, Indians and European settlers long before automobiles and interstate highways.

People like Mark Hannah, one of the first rangers in the park were instrumental in the preservation of the history and heritage of the people of the Great Smokies. Mr Hannah himself was a descendant of early settlers who came to the valley to farm.  He collected first hand accounts of the mountain people, which are preserved in the park’s archives.  Visit the Palmer House (which housed one of the post offices in the area), the areas visitor center and hear some of the recorded stories of those early settlers.

Besides Palmer House there are other historic buildings you will want to visit like Palmer Chapel,              Beech Grove School, the Woody House, and the Caldwell House.  To see a video of the area see an interview with Hattie Caldwell whose great grandfather was first into the area in 1834 click on this youtube link.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lbGd8JYl84

Another unique feature of this area are the elk, spectacular creatures that roam free here after being reintroduced to the park in 2001/2002.  Other wildlife commonly seen in the area are black bears, wild turkey, deer and red wolves.  Best viewing times are early morning and early evening.  Be sure to view all wildlife from a distance with binoculars or zoom lenses.

Out of 200 buildings near the turn of the 20th century only a handful remain to give us a glimpse of life as the settlers knew it.  Forest has reclaimed much of the farmland and orchards, the deer and elk graze next to the ruins of a stone chimney in the lost cove of Cataloochee and all is well.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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Historic Buildings

Jim Bales Cabin on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Jim Bales Cabin on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Robert Crootof photo

Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures—houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills—have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park. The best places to see them are at Cades Cove,CataloocheeOconaluftee, and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Self-guiding auto tour booklets are available at each place to enhance your visit.

Here are just a few you may want to visit.

The Little Greenbrier School

They really did walk nine miles to school in the snow.

On your way from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, stop here and take a trip back to school in the 1800s. Families sent their kids here for more than 50 years, mostly in winter when there was less farming to be done.

Greenbrier is now a ghost town, and there’s a cemetery across the street. This classic one-room schoolhouse also served as a Primitive Baptist Church. Behave when you visit, or you’ll have to sit in the corner.

John Oliver’s Cabin

Cades Cove’s first and oldest.

John and Lucretia Oliver were the first to come to Cades Cove, and they almost didn’t survive the first winter. They ate dried pumpkin given to them by the Cherokee and ground their corn into meal with a mortar and pestle. And they SURVIVED. Take a short walk off the main loop at Cades Cove and visit one of the oldest structures in the Smokies. It’s still stands where they built it, held together without pegs or nails. It remains erect by gravity, and anchored by the spirit of the mighty will of two hardy settlers.

John Cable’s Mill and Mingus Mill

The daily grind in the late 1800s.

There are still four working mills in the Smokies. Two are little tub mills, such as the one at Noah “Bud” Ogle’s homestead. John Cable’s Mill, a classic waterwheel-powered mill, is a must-see during a day trip to Cades Cove.

mingus mill

Mingus Mill, a half-mile from the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center, uses a turbine. It was built under contract in just three months and completed in 1886. It was the largest mill in the Smokies, and you can still buy cornmeal there.

Noah “Bud” Ogle Homestead

Who says they didn’t have plumbing?

If you take a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or are taking a hike to Rainbow Falls, stop here first. The cabin, barn and working tubmill have all been preserved and restored. One look at the Ogles’ handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system will make you think twice before you complain about the water pressure in your home shower ever again. The tub mill is one the few left in existence. It still grinds away powered by water diverted from nearby LeConte Creek.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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