Mysteries of Cades Cove: Whispers in the Wilderness

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an expansive park managed by the United States Government, covering over 500,000 acres of land across Tennessee and North Carolina. Here, there is a whole host of stunning landscapes that include unique mini-regions or areas that each offer their own attractions, history, and recreational opportunities. Cades Cove is one such area that has a special history and attraction to guests past and present.

Cades Cove is a picturesque valley that’s situated on the Tennessee part of the Great Smoky National Park. It’s a beautiful place to stand amidst verdant fields and be surrounded by the mist-wrapped mountains the park is so well known for. But beauty is just a part of what draws people to this area. Continue reading to learn more about the mysteries of Cades Coves in the form of interesting facts about its history and its mysteries:

Throughout All of History, Cades Cove May Have Only Been Inhabitated by Humans for 120 Years

mysteries of cades cove

It’s hard to put into words just how gorgeous Cades Cove is. Here, you have a beautiful mountain valley in a fairly temperate part of the country. It has good soil and its verdant lands attract many large game like elk. This is the exact type of place you would assume that people would have settled in for as long as humans had existed in this part of the country. Yet, the only evidence of any human settlement is that which traces back to United States colonization that occurred roughly between 1818 and 1838. Archaeologists and local American Indian tribes state that there is no archaeological evidence of Native Americans directly inhabiting these lands because the land that is known as Cades Cove was viewed as desirable hunting land. So, instead of using the valley to establish a settlement, the Cherokee and other indigenous groups respected the lands for their ability to sustain a diverse array of wildlife that could partially sustain the tribes themselves.

We find this very interesting because the United States would later take something of the same stance regarding how the land ought to be used. In 1927, the National Park Service began the wholesale purchasing of lands from settlers and the small municipality that was set up in Cades Cove. They were buying these lands and surrounding ones with the goal of creating the national park we know today as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. By 1938, the very last residents from that era left, and the valley largely returned to the way it had been eons before the 19th Century: A place for wildlife and local vegetation to thrive.

Of the Buildings That Remain, Many Have Been Moved and All Served Important Purposes

After purchasing the land to collectively create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Park Service did not seek to raze everything to the ground. Rather, they designated many of the buildings as historic entities to be valued in their own right. Of course, while the park did work to preserve this part of Cades Cove’s history, that’s not to say all was left as the national government representatives found it. In establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, organizers sought to make Cades Cove something of a memorial for that unique time in American history when Appalachia was first settled. As such, many of the buildings that were preserved and moved to more convenient locations for visitors to view and meander are buildings that served important functions for those settlers. Other buildings were replicated after time and wear wore down their originals.

For example, one of the buildings moved to Cades Cove was a cantilever barn that replicates an original that has since been lost to time. This cantilever barn is commonly referred to as the Cades Cove drive-through barn as it features a massive gap or throughway door at its center through which carts could be driven through. It’s a unique type of structure that served a very important role in pioneer America and offers a beautiful backdrop for those looking for a historic picture in Cades Cove.

Cades Cove Closes at Night, But Campers May Get Special Access

mysteries of cades cove

Cades Cove has several roadways running through it that allow visitors by car easy access to its many attractions like historic buildings and premier hiking trails. However, these roads are some of the big ones that are closed every night, preventing ready access to the valley and allowing nature to fully reclaim the area from dawn to dusk. But did you know that there is something of a workaround for those eager to visit the valley in the star-filled hours? The trick lies in choosing the right campsite.

One of the most popular campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Cades Cove Campground which is situated on the eastern edge of the valley. This is a full-service campground that has premier sites for both RVs and tent-styled campers. There is also a ranger station here that often posts about ranger-led night hikes into Cades Cove. This night hike can be especially beautiful during the warmer seasons as the valley offers exceptional open views of the night sky uninterrupted by city lights and such light pollution. So, if you are on the hunt for quiet evenings beneath the stars, consider booking a camping spot at the Cades Cove Campground for at least one evening during your vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Learn More About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We truly think that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best parks our country has to offer. Learn more about this beautiful location and about what surrounding cities like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have to offer by visiting our other pages detailing the area. We work hard to get you the very best information about this region so that you can create the perfect travel itinerary for you and your family or other traveling partners!