Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum

As we bring another installment to our Off the Beaten Path Series we highlight the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum in Townsend TN. Many guests of The Resort at Governor’s Crossing visit and enjoy the beauty and history of Cades Cove but have no idea how close they are to a big part of the regions heritage at this small museum.

Water tower at Museum

Water tower at Museum

Located on Lamar Alexander Parkway just a mile east of Wears Valley Road, the most popular route to Cades Cove from The Resort, sits this museum of early 1900s railroading and logging. W. B Townsend, whom the town was named after, came to the region after having run a successful logging business in Pennsylvania. In 1901 he founded two companies, the Little River Lumber Co. and the Little River Railroad. Soon the lumber company owned nearly 80,000 acres of timber in what is now the Smoky Mountain National Forest.
As the two companies began to flourish; workers, their families, and other settlers moved into the area starting other businesses. Saw mills, tanneries and even tourism provided many opportunities for these settlers as the railroad serviced over 150 miles in the region. In 1924 the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Assoc. was formed hoping to turn the area into a national park. After many negotiations, W.B. Townsend sold the land, retaining logging rights for another 15 years, giving conservationists 80,000 acres to advance the park movement. By the late 1930s most of the trees had been harvested and the small camps and towns in the region began to disappear and along with them much of the history of the region.
The Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum provides a small look into this history. Outside you will find a locomotive, railcars, steam engine and a logging crane. Inside the Walland Depot, restored and moved here in 1983, you will find artifacts, photos and stories about the region and the life these people lived. Alongside the depot sits a gift shop, a replica of the Elkmont Post Office, with volunteers who gladly offer more stories of the history of the railroad and logging company.

70 Ton Class C Shay Locomotive used by Little River Railroad from 1932-35.

70 Ton Class C Shay Locomotive used by Little River Railroad from 1932-35.

Walland Depot moved to this location in 1983

Walland Depot moved to this location in 1983

Train moving logs to be milled

Train moving logs to be milled

Admission is free, donations are greatly appreciated. The museum is open daily in June, July, August, and October. Also they are open on weekends in April, May and September and by appointment only November through March.
Directions from The Resort: Turn right onto Collier Drive going .5 mile to the intersection with the Parkway. Turn left on Parkway going 2.4 miles to traffic light #3 in Pigeon Forge. Turn right onto Wears Valley Rd. (Hwy 321) traveling 16 miles to the junction of Hwy 321 & Hwy 73, Lamar Alexander Pkwy. Take a right at light and proceed 1 mile, the museum will be on your right.
Directions from Cades Cove Loop Rd exit: Right on Laurel Creek Rd traveling 7.4 miles to intersection of Hwy 73/Townsend Entrance Rd. going left to exit National Park. Travel 3.2 miles Lamar Alexander Pkwy (Hwy 321 S), museum will be on your right.

The Great Smoky Mountains Quarter

In 2010 the US Mint launched the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The mint began issuing quarters embossed with designs featuring national parks or national sites.
This past week the mint released the Great Smoky Mountains Quarter, the 21st coin in the program. The coin’s design features a historic log cabin found within the National Park (presumably the John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove) with a mountain backdrop and a hawk soaring above.

The Great Smoky Mountains Commemorative Quarter

The Great Smoky Mountains Commemorative Quarter

The Resort at Governor’s Crossing was fortunate to receive some of these quarters at their release. As a special thank you to our guests staying the nights of February 16th and/or 17th during the Presidents Day weekend, we will be handing out a “mint stateGreat Smoky Mountains Quarter in a protective plastic case.

Commemorative quarters are limited to one per guest unit. The quantity is very limited and not for sale.

2014 Wilderness Wildlife Week In Pigeon Forge

The 24th Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week will be held Jan. 25-Feb. 1st at the new LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. The annual salute to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the great outdoors has been recognized by many organizations including the International Festivals & Events Assoc. and Southeast Tourism Society.

Among the many different activities offered is the new Smokies through the Lens! (Photography workshops), hiking, and crafting. Some of the many lectures will cover the Civil War in the Smokies and East Tennessee, fly fishing, wildlife, conservation, and much more. camerahiking

Downloadable Program Guide

Human Interaction Harms one of Tennessee’s Free Attractions

One of East Tennessee’s and here in the Smokies great attractions is the chance to see a black bear in the wild. People come from near and far with the hope of seeing one of these bears and other wildlife as this area holds the greatest bear population in the entire state.

Mother & Cub

Mother & Cub

On top of that viewing them in the wild is free as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has no admission fees. That’s right; you can drive through Cades Cove, the Roaring Fork, all over the park and only have to pay for your fuel. Sadly foolish, uneducated, and uncaring tourists are ruining the chance for you and your family to observe these bears.

A recent report by Knoxville WBIR TV News brought to light that poor behavior by certain tourists is harming these bears leading to their removal or even causing the need for certain bears to be killed. They reported how tourists fed a female black bear and her three cubs in Cades Cove causing them to become “Nuisance Bears”. This forced the park service to capture and relocate the mother bear and her cubs 40 miles from the area. The article goes on to tell of a bear having to be euthanized in 2010 because of it approaching hikers in the Laurel Falls area wanting food.

Full WBIR News Article

The WBIR article also reported on the story in Country Magazine where the lady bragged about approaching an angry mother bear and her cubs in Cades Cove to get that “photographic treasure”. Thankfully enough public backlash caused the magazine to retract the story.

Cub in tree eating berries

Cub in tree eating berries

The law states you must stay back 50 yards and may not disturb or displace these animals. Visitors can be arrested and fined for violating this law. Bring a zoom lens and stay back. Don’t feed the bears! Keep your distance, stay safe and keep them safe.

Black Bear Safety Tips

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 2013

Newfound Gap Road (US-441), the main route from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC, has been closed since January due to a land slide on the NC side, near mile marker 22. Park officials have reported that road repairs are on schedule and should be completed by May 15, 2013. Newfound Gap Road is open from Gatlinburg to the Newfound Gap overlook and to Clingmans Dome Road weather permitting.  UPDATENewfound Gap Road repairs are completed and the road is now open from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC as of 4/15/13.

The following roads are scheduled to open April 12:
Parsons Branch Road
The Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail

Little Greenbrier

Due to federal budget cuts the following campgrounds and picnic areas will be closed in 2013:
Look Rock campground and picnic area
Abrams Creek campground
Balsam Mountain campground and picnic area (includes Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads)
Tow String horse camp (NC)

Current park road and facilities information click here.

Annual Synchronized Firefly Show

The first few weeks of June in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Mother Nature treats us with the annual lightshow of the synchronized fireflies. There are 12 species of the flashing fireflies know to inhabit the park. The “flashing” is caused by a chemical reaction in the firefly’s body.
Thus year the City of Gatlinburg will provide trolley service to the Elkmont Campground through June 12, as park officials will close the entrance road to Elkmont to all vehicles and pedestrians daily at 5PM until midnight. Registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground will be exempt from this road closure. Due to safety concerns visitors will not be allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance.
The trolleys will pick up visitors at the Sugarland’s Visitor Center parking area at 7PM until the parking area is full or until 9PM which ever occurs first. The last return trolley from Elkmont will depart at 11PM. The roundtrip cost is $1 per person. There is no overflow parking at the Sugarland’s Visitor Center, and restrictions will be enforced, so arrive early.
It is recommended that visitors bring flashlights with red cellophane covers to reduce white light. Visitors may bring lawn chairs, and carry food & water in backpacks but these items must be able to fit on their laps while on the trolleys. There are no services available at the site and coolers, alcoholic beverages, and pets are strictly prohibited.

Music of the Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host its 7th annual “Music of the Mountains”. The three day event will begin on April 8th at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, TN. On Saturday the 9th the Sugarlands Visitor Center, just south of Gatlinburg, will host 6 free events through out the day. The final day’s event will be held Sunday afternoon in Cosby, TN at the Smoky Mountain Visitor Center.
There is a $5 per person admission charge at the concert in Townsend, which will begin at 7PM. The concert in Cosby costs $4 per person and will begin at 2PM.

Newfound Gap Road Construction Delays Starting in March

Travelers on Newfound Gap Road (U. S. 441) through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park will experience delays beginning March 1st. Repairs on the heavily traveled two lane mountain road will begin on the Tennessee side at the state line proceeding north. In addition to repaving and drainage work the stone retaining walls will require repairs including re-construction to support the roadbeds, forcing closure of one lane from March 1st through June 10th.

Just above the Morton Overlook the work on the retaining wall and roadbed will require flag crews to direct traffic from 8AM until 9PM. Overnight traffic will be open to both lanes. At a slightly lower location traffic lights will control traffic around the clock.

From June 11 through August 15 there will be no lane closures during daytime hours.  Overnight between 9PM and 8AM construction will again cause lane closures.

The expected completion time of this first phase of the road work project is scheduled for October 2012. An additional two phases are schedule to complete the repairs of the 15 mile stretch of road between Newfound Gap and the park entrance north of Gatlinburg with projected completion in 2016.

Elk in the Smokies Currently in “Rut”

Bull Elk in the Smokies are in “Rut” (male courtship), considered to be one of the great spectacles in North American animal kingdom. The competition between mature male elks is to try to impress and control groups of female elk.
Though the competition is mostly show as the elk prance, grunt and bugle, things can become combative as the bull elk spar. Bugling and sparing are two of the most recognized parts of the rut.
The bugling of the bull is when they through back their heads and utter a long, loud call that can be heard up to a mile away. The larger bulls are able to assert their dominance as they usually have deeper and louder calls.
The spar is when two bulls lock their massive antlers in a test of strength, pushing and shoving until one retreats into submission. The spar can cause punctures and bruises to the elks. Some times fatal injuries do occur, part of natures way of controlling the eco system.

Two Bull Elk Sparing

Two Bull Elk Sparing

Two of the best places to witness the “rut” is the Cataloochee Valley and near the Oconaluftee Vistor’s Center outside of Cherokee, NC, the closet location to The Resort. If you decide to view the “Rut” please enjoy from afar as these are wild animals.

National Park Announces Delays in Opening of Popular Areas

Officials of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park announced Wednesday that the road to Clingman’s Dome and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will remain closed.
The road to Clingman’s Dome is now scheduled to be open June 19th. The major setback on the project was the weather. The park recorded over 130 inches of snow this past winter.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Gatlinburg has not set a new opening date. In addition to weather, this project has faced major delays due to the steep, narrow winding roads. Contractors have faced challenges maneuvering heavy equipment on the scenic roadway.
For complete information on park road, trail and campground closures please go to their web site.