Monday, February 24, 2014

A Winter Drive in the Smoky Mountains/Cade’s Cove

Since Laurie connected with Carol and her horses, we decided to drive on over to Pigeon Forge, have lunch and go shopping at Stages West… After all, what self-respecting cowgirl doesn’t need a decent pair of boots?  Stages West has a huge selection and I thought that their prices were very reasonable.  Check this store out at

After Stages West, we were off to the Tanger outlet mall in Sevierville where we picked up a couple of pair of jeans for her at the Levi Outlet Store.  Lunch and shopping completed, we decided it was time for a drive through part of the Smoky Mountains National Park… 

This is a view of Gatlinburg Tennessee from a roadside viewpoint on the National Park bypass around the town.  We’d never taken the bypass before.  Not only does one avoid the Gatlinburg tourist traffic by taking this route, the scenery is great too!

Gatlinburg is the smallest of the 3 tourist related towns that stretch along US Hwy. 441 in Sevier County Tennessee. As you can see the town is also the closest to the Park itself…actually nestling up against its borders. 
The other towns along US Hwy. 441 are Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.  Sevierville is the county seat.  Sevier County is the 3rd fastest growing county in Tennessee…recording a 26.3% population growth between 2000 and 2010.  Dollywood and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies are 2 of the premier attractions along Route 441, drawing 2.2 and 2.0 million visitors per year!

We stopped to take a photo of these turkeys foraging beside the bypass… It wasn’t that many years ago that it was rare to see wild turkeys but now they seem to be everywhere.  The range and numbers of the wild turkey had decreased at the beginning of the 20th century due to hunting and loss of habitat.  Game managers estimate that the entire population of wild turkeys in the United States was as low as 30,000 in the early 20th century.

Then Wildlife Officials initiated efforts to protect and encourage the breeding of the surviving wild population.  Trapped birds were relocated to new areas and, as wild turkey numbers rebounded, hunting was legalized in 49 U.S. states (excluding Alaska).  Current estimates place the wild turkey population at 7 million individuals…which is approaching 2 turkeys per square mile in the USA!

This photo was taken along Little River Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There were some slippery spots along the road in the foothills of the Smokies as we started our drive.  Recent snow and cold weather gave us a different perspective than we would normally have.  With less foliage, many details of the terrain and forest were noted that we hadn’t seen previously… 
Little River drains a 380-square-mile area containing some of the most spectacular scenery in the southeastern United States.  The first 18 miles of the river are all located within the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The remaining 33 miles (53 km) flow out of the mountains at Townsend Tennessee and through Blount County to join the Tennessee River.  Trout fishing and tubing are very popular on the river.  To learn more, go to

All along our route there were seeps…water seeping from the limestone rocks…that had frozen in spectacular style!

After leaving Little River Road, we took the Laurel Creek Road up into the mountains toward Cades Cove, one of the most famous sections of the park.

More about the park itself… Great Smoky Mountains National Park is both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It sits astride the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are in turn a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park.  On its route from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park. The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934 and it was officially dedicated in 1940.  The park encompasses 522,419 acres or a little over 816 square miles.
Incidentally, there are 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites either shared or totally within the boundaries of the United States.  How many have you visited?  I’ve been to 11 of them and Laurie has been to 12… We’ve been to 2 others in Canada, 3 in Australia, 2 in Great Britain and 1 in New Zealand.  To learn more about America’s World Heritage Sites, you can go to

Herds of Whitetail Deer were feeding in the meadows throughout Cades Cove. 
Given all of the deer we see, it’s hard to believe that by the early 20th century, commercial exploitation, wide-open hunting and poor land-use practices such as deforestation had severely depressed deer populations in much of their range.  For example, by about 1930, the entire U.S. deer population was thought to number about 300,000!  

After an outcry by hunters and other conservationists, commercial exploitation of deer became illegal and conservation programs with regulated hunting were introduced.  In 2005, estimates put the deer population in the United States at around 30 million!  Conservation practices have proved so successful that, in parts of their range, the white-tailed deer populations currently far exceed their carrying capacity and many people consider them to be a nuisance. (Not us!  Yesterday, much to our delight, 6 of them bounded through our backyard…)

As we drove along the loop road in Cades Cove, this handsome young buck was prepared to cross the road in front of us. 

The Whitetail Deer is the state animal of Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  It’s also the wildlife symbol of Wisconsin and the game animal of Oklahoma. The profile of a white-tailed deer buck caps the coat of arms of Vermont, can be seen in the flag of Vermont as well as in stained glass at the Vermont State House. 

Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA.  It is the single most popular destination for visitors to the park.  More than 2 million visitors a year are attracted to the valley because of its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and an abundant display of wildlife.  The Cades Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is a view along the loop road in Cades Cove.  The road is a one-way, 11 mile paved loop.  It draws thousands of visitors daily during the tourist season.  The cove draws attention for numerous black bear sightings. In season, the drive may take more than 4 hours to complete and view the various sites.  Many visitors just stop in the middle of the road to take photos of the first deer they see…and when in season, bear sightings cause traffic jams that are a bit mind boggling!  The good news was that there was very little traffic during our mid-winter drive! 

There are many well preserved homesteads and other early structures throughout Cades Cove.  This is the Henry Whitehead Cabin.  It was constructed between 1895 and 1896. It was built by Matilda "Aunt Tildy" Shields and her second husband, Henry Whitehead.  FYI…Shields' sons from her first marriage, were prominent figures in the cove's moonshine trade.

This is the Tipton Place… It was built in the 1880s by the descendants of Revolutionary War veteran William "Fighting Billy" Tipton.  The clapboarding on the house was a later addition.  In addition to the cabin, the homestead includes a carriage house, a smokehouse, a woodshed, and a double-cantilever barn.  To see some great photos of this homestead in the summer, just go to

Here’s another view of the valley… Even in the winter, it’s a beautiful place.  An additional advantage of a winter drive in the Cove is just how peaceful it is!

There is a ‘dark side’ to Cades Cove however… What happened to all the people who used to live here?  Of all the Smoky Mountain communities, Cades Cove put up the most resistance to the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cove residents had initially been assured their land would not be incorporated into the park, and they actually welcomed its formation.  However, by 1927, the winds had changed.  When the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill approving money to buy land for the national park, it gave the Park Commission the power to seize properties within the proposed park boundaries by eminent domain.  Needless to say, long-time residents of Cades Cove were outraged.

Laurie took this photo of an abandoned old road in the cove that intersects with the parks loop tour road.

Despite resistance, threats and lawsuits, the residents of Cades Cove were eventually forced off their land.  The last holdout finally abandoned his property on Christmas Day in 1937.  However, in defiance of the Park Service, the Primitive Baptist Church congregation continued to meet in Cades Cove until the 1960s.

This is the last home on the loop drive through Cades Cove.  It’s the rustic Carter Shields Cabin which was built in the 1880s.  There are 11 structures or groups of structures along the drive, including 3 churches.
For about 100 years before the National Park was created, farming and logging was the mainstay in the valley.  This led to massive deforestation.  Initially the National Park Service planned to let the cove return to its natural forested state.  However it ultimately gave in to requests by the Great Smoky Mountain Conservation Association to maintain Cades Cove as a meadow.  On the advice of cultural experts, the Park Service demolished the more modern structures, leaving only the primitive cabins and barns which were considered most representative of pioneer life in early Appalachia.

To learn more about The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, go to To find out more about Cades Cove, you can go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for joining us on our scenic winter drive in the Smokies!  

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I really enjoy seeing the primitive barns and am so glad the Forestry Service had the good sense to keep them. Cades Cove is a lovely area and thank you for being our guide.

  2. Great photos! Love the countryside, it reminds me of growing up on the farm in Ohio. Lots of fields, but no "hills" like this. I want to see Dollywood, I think it's in Pigeon Forge.

  3. Dear Dave, This is a beautiful place to live. It is so pristine and simply beautiful. Thank you for the photo's.
    blessings, Catherine

  4. What a beautiful relaxing place. The air must be so fresh and clean there. Gorgeous pictures as always David.