Spring Break day 7 - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cataloochee
Cataloochee - Smoky Mountains Natl. Park - NY Travel Blog› entry 807 of 1090 › view all entries
The last day in the Smoky Mountains! Time to head back north! But, not before I could pay one more visit to a (remote) area of Smoky Mountain National Park, being Cataloochee (Valley). In order to get there I first had to drive 172 kilometers (107 miles) back to North Carolina!
Cataloochee is a set of three valleys surrounded by the higher peaks of the park. The name is derived from the native Indian word "gadalutsi" which translates to "standing up in a row", which could refer to the high peeks surrounding the valleys, or to the many rows of trees on these mountains.
The Indians used the valleys mainly for hunting. Understandable since wildlife is widely present. The first settlers arrived in Cataloochee in the early 1800s, via Indian trails.
Life had its challenges in the early days. The relation with the Cherokee Indians was not always optimal and bears and panthers sometimes had a dangerous presence. Despite that the population steadily grew from 160 in 1860 to 764 in 1900.
The residents of the valley recognized the potential of the area for tourist even before the area was included in the National Park. Some rented rooms or even cabins to tourists. Others even created artificial fishing ponds. In 1930s, when the National Park was established, the residents were all evicted form their valley. Leaving behind their farmlands, houses, farms, barns, churches, cemeteries, and a school.
The valley is still secluded, there are only two roads leading into the valley, a long gravel road from the north-east part of the park and gravel mountain pass from the south East part. I took the latter. The gravel road was way better and shorter than the huge McCarthy Road I drove last year in Alaska, and after the pass the road in the valley was asphalt again.
The valley is beautiful and so peaceful. The old church (Palmer Chapel) is there like it expects visitors every Sunday. The nearby cemetery is still maintained. The houses of the former settlers are way more developed than the wood log structures elsewhere in the park. These are real houses, with windows, stairs, etc. The houses are all open for the public. The majority enters them with respect for the past. Others, sadly enough, have carved their names in the walls, or have torn down the wallpaper. So sad that these people had to leave their houses. The houses that they built and developed themselves.
More pictures below.