Monday, May 18, 2015

Driving Home via the Scenic Route

On a recent spring day, we had a bunch of errands to take care of… We drove into Knoxville and then over to Maryville Tennessee.  We could have driven back the usual way…down US Hwy. 411…but I decided that since we weren’t in any hurry, I’d take us home via a scenic route that we hadn’t driven in quite some time.

We headed east toward Townsend Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains, turning south just on the Foothills Parkway just west of that iconic mountain range.  FYI…the Foothills Parkway is a National Parkway that runs parallel to the Smoky Mountains. 

The history of this Parkway’s development is long, torturous and ongoing…   In 1944 the US Congress authorized construction of a 71-mile scenic road connecting US-129 at Chilhowee Lake to I-40 along the Pigeon River.  Construction didn’t begin until 1960 and it still isn’t completed!

At this elevation, the trees were greening up nicely but most of the higher altitude flora had yet to blossom with only the early bloomers in full flower.

The views were both beautiful and peaceful… We love the many shades of green evident in the early spring!  The mountain ranges in the distance are pretty impressive.

This 15.6 mile segment of the Foothills Parkway, which is referred to as the Chilhowee Mountain section, was completed in 1966.  There are 4 overlooks on its north side, looking into the Tennessee Valley, and 8 overlooks on its south side, looking at the Smokies.

Because of the bright sunshine on the valley side of the Parkway, all of our photos were taken in the direction of the mountains. 

Because parkways always seem to rank low in budgetary priorities, it will likely take several decades to complete the entire parkway.  The major influence for development of the Foothills Parkway— the Blue Ridge Parkway— took over five decades to complete!

What a beautiful valley…or as they’re referred to in these parts…its a beautiful ‘cove’.

Construction on Foothills Parkway has continued into the 21st century, although progress has been very slow. A particularly difficult section of the Walland-Wears Valley corridor, now known as the "Missing Link”, required a series of 10 bridges over a 1.6-mile section straddling the Sevier County-Blount County line.  In June 2013 a key bridge in the "missing link" section was completed.  Consequently, the Foothills Parkway section from Walland to Wears Valley Tennessee is expected to open in 2016.  This will add 15.8 miles to the Parkway…

The foothills of the Smokies consist of a series of low mountains and hills lying roughly between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south and the flatlands of the Tennessee River to the north and west and French Broad River valleys to the north.  

The most prominent of the Foothills are characterized by long-but-narrow ridges, running parallel to the crest of the Smokies, similar to a circuit wall surrounding a medieval castle.  The Foothills Parkway runs along a series of these ridges…

I took this photo of Laurie taking a photo of the wooded valley below.
The highest point on this western section of Chilhowee Mountain is 2,650 ft. at a knob known as Look Rock.  An observation tower has been erected here, allowing a 360-degree view of Blount County and the Western Smokies.  The parking area for Look Rock is just off the parkway, with a half-mile trail leading to the tower. (We didn’t take the time to walk up to the tower)

This is a zoom lens view of the Chilhowee Lake impoundment in the distance.  Chilhowee Dam is a hydroelectric dam located in Blount and Monroe counties Tennessee on the Little Tennessee River.  Construction began in 1955 and was completed in 1957.  The dam's reservoir is 874 feet above sea level and it covers about 1,734 acres.   Tellico Lake, covering 16,000 acres and with 351 miles of shoreline begins immediately below Chilhowee Dam.

We are fortunate indeed to live where we do… The weather is moderate and the scenery is hard to beat.  Considering just how many people live east of the Mississippi River, it is mind boggling to realize that we have a huge undeveloped area nearby that stretches from North Georgia up through Tennessee and North Carolina into Southwestern Virginia.

There are 7 huge sections of federally protected lands that are connected to each other that run along the spine of the southern Appalachians.  Starting in Georgia, there are both the Oconee and Chattahoochee National Forests, Tennessee has the Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina includes the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and Virginia has the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.  Then of course, Tennessee and North Carolina share the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

In total, about 3,293 contiguous square miles are protected… That’s about 82% of the total land included in the states of Delaware and Rhode Island!

Laurie and I both took this photo… It was all about the rocks, the trees and the color pallet.  We live about 25 minutes from this spot!

The dogwood trees down in the valley were about done blooming for the season.  But up here on the Foothills Parkway, there were still many spectacular dogwoods available for the passerby to enjoy…

The next time we’ll have to make this drive in the morning…in the opposite direction.  The morning light will allow us to take some great photos of the Tennessee River Valley with the Cumberland Plateau in the distance.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and taking our scenic drive with us!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Great shots guys. Glad to hear that road may finally open - it's been partially done for my entire 46 years here,

  2. Just beautiful David! What a wonderful place!

  3. all look beautiful David, I love autumn but spring is amazing is like all begin again and the nature looks glorious!!