Scenic USA - Tennessee
Cades Cove Scenic Loop
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, one of the most popular parks in America, preserves over a half million acres of scenic beauty. The park is noted for its old growth forest and its abundant wildlife, offering some of the best opportunities for viewing animals in the wild. It's common to see large numbers of white-tailed deer, elk herds and over 150 species of birds. Frequent sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog and turkey make this a popular stop for over nine million visitors a year.
Cades Cove is tucked into the northwest corner of the park and was home for nearly 700 self-sufficient residents in the mid 1800s. One of the most congested areas of the 522,419 acre park today, the area was once known as Kate's Cove. Named for a Cherokee chief's wife, the isolated valley was a premier Native American hunting ground.
The huge park area, spanning the Tennessee - North Carolina border, was added to the National Park's system in 1934. Although other settlers lived throughout the park, Cades Cove preserved the widest variety of historic buildings.
The Cades Cove scenic loop circles the valley for eleven miles, introducing visitors to remnants of the old Tennessee community. It's believed the first Europeans arrived in the Cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. The Oliver family (John Oliver home - top inset) became the first permanent Europeans to settle in Cades Cove. The Olivers, originally from Tennessee's Carter County, probably arrived in 1818. By 1850 the population of Cades Cove grew to 671, with the size of area farms averaging between 150 to 300 acres.
Religion was an important part of life in Cades Cove, illustrated from its well preserved churches. The Oliver family organized the Baptist Church (inset) for Cades Cove in 1825. The unadorned Cades Cove Methodist Church, built in 1902, featured double doors, one side for the ladies and the other for the gentlemen. Along with the three frame built churches, a few sturdy log homes, a number of barns and a working grist mill remain. Located half-way around the loop road is the visitor center where guests will find park information, restrooms and the Cable Mill (inset) historic area.
Two days out of the week (Saturday and Wednesday) the loop is open to bicycle and foot traffic only until 10:00 a.m. (early May until late September). At all other times the road is open to motor vehicles from sunrise until sunset.
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