Cades Cove Loop Road Auto Tour

cades cove loop road auto tour

Auto & Bike Tour

cades cove loop road map

Cades Cove was once known as "Kate's Cove" after an Indian chief's wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Nation back again and again by its abundant wildlife and good hunting. Later, Cades Cove's wildlife drew European descent frontiersmen to make it their home. They and their offspring cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms to sustain them. The pioneer's families lived in Cades Cove for many generations before the cove became part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Today, Cades Cove is still as full of wildlife as before but draws not hunters, but millions of Smokies visitors.

The Cove has been preserved by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to look much the way it looked in the 1800's. Once home to a small mountain community, whose settlers came from mainly from Virginia, North Carolina and upper east Tennessee, Cades Cove is today the largest open air museum in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Cades Cove has original pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, pasture and farmland--a fitting tribute to the hearty people who lived here in the days of yesteryear.

Most of the settlers homes and home sites will be outside of the road you as you travel the Cades Cove loop. To the center of the loop will be acre upon acre of grass and wildflower fields which were once cleared by frontiersmen for valuable for growing things such as wheat, corn and cattle. Nearly all the buildings built by the pioneers and preserved by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are outside the Cades Cove Loop. These remaining original structures, as well as abundant wildlife, are easy to spot as you travel the loop.

However there were many homes in the cove which were not preserved. Those abandoned home sites are still visible to the trained eye. You may recognize the abandoned home sites by obscure lonely chimney's, rock fences or landscaping which does not seem natural to the surroundings. In addition to the European descent Americans who lived in Cades Cove for over a century before it was absorbed into The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there were also Native Americans. The Native American tribe was, and still is the Cherokee nation. You can see signs they left on Cades Cove in the form of trails, many of which were developed into roads and or hiking trails.

The loop enters Cades Cove near Sparks Lane--
When you enter Cades Cove, you will be at the northeast end of the one way loop near Sparks Lane. Sparks Lane is one of two roads that cut directly across the loop, the other being Hyatt Lane. If you turn left on Sparks Lane a short drive will take you to the exit of the Cades Cove Loop. It affords the Smokies visitor a chance to return to the store, bike rental and restroom in case by chance you missed it when entering the Cades Cove area.

john oliver cabinThe Oliver's Cabin was the first in the Smokies--
The Smokies pioneers started settling Cades Cove on the north eastern side where the loop begins, for this is the higher and dryer part of the cove, away from the swampy land found elsewhere. John and Lurany Oliver were the first to come to this area of the Smokies.

Typical of the European immigrants and their descendants, the Olivers came despite the fact that there was no Indian treaty allowing them access to the Smoky Mountain land. Generally speaking this practice of settlement without treaty was the source of much friction between new settlers and the Native Americans already in the mountains. However, in the case of John and Lurany the Cherokee Indians actually helped the interlopers survive their first winter. Just as fortunate, for the Olivers, the Calhoun Treaty gave whites the right to settle the cove just one year after they arrived. The Olivers purchased their land in 1826.

Members of the Oliver family lived in Cades Cove when it became part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Of course the Oliver's Smoky Mountain happy ending was not evident to them when they decided to settle Cades Cove. Their decisions and efforts were made in an atmosphere of uncertainty with challenges posed by both nature and the difficulty of leaving the familiar for the unknown, and yet somehow their choices served to strengthen them.

The Oliver's original Cades Cove cabin stood fifty yards or so behind the cabin now identified as their cabin. For instance, the cabin, still standing and preserved by The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service and identified as the Oliver's cabin is actually the honeymoon house which the their family built for their son to use when he married.

Buried in Cades Cove at the Primitive Baptist church which they helped to found, John Oliver and his friend Peter Cable had once signed the deed for land the church had been given by William Tipton.

[ More on Cades Cove Pioneers ]

Luxury Log Home Resort in the Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church--
In Cades Cove and the surrounding Smokies area, it took faith to settle the American frontier so religion was a big part of life for the settlers. Up until the founding of the Baptist Church, the Cades Cove members had to travel through the Smoky Mountains to attended Sunday meeting in Millers and Wears Coves. They also went to campground revivals in Tuckaleechee Cove, present day Townsend.

The Cades Cove Baptist church was established in 1827. In time a schism developed over biblical interpretation. One side said the scripture allowed for missionary work and others in the congregation said it did not. This problem was not isolated to the Baptists in the Smokies but was widespread elsewhere as well. As for the Cades Cove Baptists, they decided to rename their church in order to distinguish it from Baptists with other beliefs. Their church became known as the Primitive Baptist Church in 1841. The small congregation met in a log structure for sixty years until the white frame church was built in 1887.

Cades Cove Methodist Church--
This Cades Cove congregation also began modestly meeting in a log structure with a fire pit and dirt floor. As change camemethodist church cades cove rather slowly in the Smokies, it took sixty two years to get a newer more modern building. In 1902 carpenter/pastor, John D. McCampbell built the pretty white frame structure which became the Cades Cove Methodist church. The buildings two front door design was common in the 1800's in the Smokies and elsewhere. Generally a two front door design allowed men to enter and sit on one side of the chapel and women and children on the other. Some churches even had a divider in the middle of the chapel. However, the Cades Cove's Methodist congregation was more relaxed and sat where they pleased. Records show the builder was simply copying the design of another church building which happened to have the two door design. What a lovely result. The balanced design of the little Methodist Church tends to a feeling of peace and harmony in its Smoky Mountain setting.

Yet the peaceful setting and harmonious design of the church building did not shield this Smokies congregation from controversy. The Cades Cove Methodist was troubled by division during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Dissidents split off and formed the Hopewell Methodist church. The Hopewell building no longer stands.

Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove--
The Smokies were full of Indian trails and Hyatt Lane was one of them. It was upgraded to a road and named after a resident who lived there. It was used by many settlers when traveling to Tuckaleechee or Maryville. Today Hyatt Lane is a dusty two lane shortcut across the Cades Cove. The tour continues straight ahead on the Cades Cove loop so keep in mind you will miss much if you cut across the cove on Hyatt Lane.

Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains. One of the few ways through the Smokies and into the cove was along Indian trails. Some of those trails were improved into roads. One of those trails was called, appropriately enough, Cades Cove road. The name was later changed to Rich Mountain Road. By either name the road was one of the main routes through the Smokies between Tuckaleechee and Cades Cove.

Rich Mountain Road has a number of famous views of Cades Cove and today's Smoky Mountain visitors face the temptation to travel up Rich Mountain Road to see those views. Smokies tourists may use the road but shouldn't unless they don't mind leaving Cades Cove before finishing the auto tour most of which lay beyond the roads turn off. Rich Mountain Road is a one way dirt road which exits The Great Smoky Mountain National Park after twelve mountainous miles.

Cove roads which went to Maryville through the Smoky Mountains could be difficult to travel for the Cades Cove population and their teams of horses. You see the trip to town and back took three days. One to go. One to buy or sell goods, or perhaps visit and one to come home again.

Though Cades Cove was generally a self sustaining community, pioneers bought things from Maryville such as medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, catnip tea, Castor oil, Epsom salts. As time went by, general stores such as the Giles Gregory store, sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies. Products could be purchased with money or by trading products such as eggs. Still, the larger town of Maryville had a more appealing selection and so the trips from the Cades Cove continued. If on a trip to Maryville, the family was selling rather than buying, chances are they were selling chestnuts which grew in abundance in Cades Cove. Unfortunately disease eventually killed the majestic chestnut groves.

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church--
In Cades Cove as in the rest of the Smokies, Baptists were divided into camps of members who supported missionary work, temperance societies and Sunday schools and those that didn't. Some thought there was no Biblical support for those things. In the end, a number of Cades Cove Baptists were eventually dismissed from the original Baptist church for their beliefs including Johnson Adams who was pastor.

On May 15, 1841, Adams and other disenfranchised Smokies pioneers banded together and established the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. The start was rocky. They had no meeting house and had to meet in individual homes. Sometimes they made arrangements to meet at the Primitive Baptist or Methodist church buildings. Also, in the Smokies there was much confusion over the Civil War. During the Civil War and reconstruction, the Missionary Baptists didn't meet for long periods of time. After the war however, they had a particularly successful revival and were able to erect their own church building in the Cades Cove area of the Smoky Mountains. Their church was constructed on Hyatt Hill in 1894, with their rolls bulging with 40 members. Eventually the rolls grew to over one hundred. In 1915, a new building was needed and was created in the present location.

Note: In March and April daffodils bloom in Cades Cove. Look for daffodils which bloom on the right between the church and Tater Branch. If you look closely and use your imagination, you can still see the flowers have a message, "Co. 5427." That message was meant to be a memorial to the company of the Civilian Conservation corps (CCC) who built so many of the trails, roads and bridges within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We owe the workers of the CCC a debt of gratitude for enhancing our access to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Elijah Oliver Place--
Deep in the Smokies nestled in Cades Cove, the Elijah Oliver cabin, smokehouse, corn crib, springhouse and barn provided aelijah oliver place cozy environment for this branch of the Oliver family. Elijah was the son of John and Luraney and was born in the original Cades Cove cabin in 1824. It was there Elijah grew into a young man and married. He eventually brought his bride to the site where they built the Smokies cabin that bears his name.

Elijah Oliver lived in a time when the inhabitants of Cades Cove were keenly aware of their dependence upon God, family and neighbors. He lived in a time when strangers were taken in and given a meal and shelter. Cades Cove hospitality was so well known that fishermen came to the cove knowing that the mountaineers would give them lodging at no charge. So common was this practice that many Cades Cove residents made a special room built to house the strangers who need shelter. Elijah Oliver must have been one of those men of charity as he had a "strangers room" built on his front porch. For those of us living in the twenty-first century that kind of take care of your fellow man attitude is extremely rare. We can learn much from the example of the simple people of yesteryear.

Around 1900 some of the Cades Cove residents began to charge a modest rate for the room and board. The rest is history! Now there are over 8,000 cabins and chalets surrounding The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. These shelter strangers who come to these mountains not only to fish, but to hike, bike, golf, kayak, horseback ride, auto tour or vacation.

Cable Mill Historic Area & Visitor Center--
Enclosed by a snake rail fence, one of the most popular stops on the Cades Cove tour is the one at Cable Mill. For one thingpioneer structure cades cove the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has a visitors center at Cable Mill that is open from mid-April through October. There the Smoky Mountain visitor can buy post cards, maps and books about Cades Cove and the park as a whole. Corn meal and molasses are sometimes available. Beyond the Great Smoky Mountain National Park visitor center, Cable Mill's has restrooms, emergency assistance, information and park rangers. Of course the main attraction of the Cable Mill area is the outdoor displays are very interesting and of course are one of the best parts of the Smokies. All buildings except the grist mill were brought to this site by The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service.

Sorghum Mill--
In the Great Smoky Mountains the settlers had several sources of sweetener including maple syrup, honey and maple sugar. Besides these was a very dark sweet syrup called molasses. To the Smoky Mountain pioneers molasses was pretty good especially on corn bread with a little butter.

The sorghum mill was the means by which the molasses was made in the Cades Cove. Molasses begins as sorghum cane which is stripped of leaves and then fed between the rollers of the mill. The long poles of the mill were attached to the harness of a farm animal such as an ox, mule or horse. Because the animal was attached to the pole they were forced walk in a circle. The animal's effort turned the rollers which pulled the stalks further into the mill where the sorghum juice was pressed out. As the rollers pressed the juice from the cane, it was collected. Next the juice was boiled down in an outdoor furnace until it was thick and dark. Molasses could be used as a sweetener in a variety of ways. Molasses can be purchased about the middle of September into October at the Cades Cove visitors center.

Gregg-Cable House had two locations in Cades Cove--
Cades Cove's Becky Cable died in her Cades Cove home in 1940 at age ninety-four. At the time she and her house werebecky cable house located on Forge Creek Road but after her death the Great Smoky Mountain National Park service decided the Cable Mill area was a better location--for the house that is. Becky Cable was a remarkable lady who lived a long productive life in the cove. For one thing, she raised her brothers children after he and his wife became ill. But that is not all. She also ran a boarding house as well as her brother's farm. She raised gardens, cattle and food for herself , her family and her borders. In the early Cades Cove culture, Aunt Becky had help of course from adult family members, neighbors and her brothers children.

[ More Becky Cable & Cades Cove Family Life ]

Cable Mill Barn--
cable barn cades cove
Not all barns in Cades Cove were of the cantilever design. Most Smoky Mountain barns were of similar design of which we have today with a row of stalls on each side of an isle. In the cantilever design the stalls were in the middle of the structure with a large loft overhang on both sides. Both designs had their advantages as the cantilever barn provided animals not kept in stalls some shelter as they could wander out of the pasture to stand under the huge eaves. The regular barn design more thoroughly protected the domestic animals by providing sturdy stalls to protect the livestock from the predators of the Smokies.

Corn Crib--
In Cades Cove both settlers and their animals were dependent upon corn and the building known as a corn crib whichcorn crib protected it. Aside from grain for livestock, the corn was ground into corn meal and used for making corn bread and grits, mush or left whole to make hominy as well as other traditional uses. Notice the Cades Cove corn cribs were designed with slats which would hold the corn in while allowing maximum air circulation. The harvested corn ears were brought to the corn crib and tossed in the above hatch usually with the shucks still on the ears where they air dried into hard kernels still on the cob. When corn was needed to it was retrieved through the small door at the bottom of the crib, shucked and rubbed together briskly to knock the hardened corn from the cob. Once off the cob, the corn kernels could be made into hominy, hominy grits, cornmeal, mush or chicken and livestock food.

[ Smoky Mountain Skillet Corn Bread ] [ Smokies Cheese Grits ]

Pork was the principal meat of the day and so Smokehouses were common in Cades Cove as throughout the Smokies. There was a long preparation time before the hogs were slaughtered. For one thing, the hogs diet affected the flavor of the processed meat. It was customary in the Smokies to fatten the hogs on abundant chestnuts found in huge Chestnut groves once common in Cades Cove. The farmers actually took their hogs to a Chestnut grove and left them there running loose. They did not worry about the hogs wandering off as they would not leave the feast of chestnuts found on the ground. After weeks of gorging on the chestnuts the hogs were brought back to the barn and put in the stall where they were "topped off" with corn for a few weeks.

Once a year in the Fall, when the weather got cold enough in Cades Cove to process the hogs before spoilage occurred, the farmers would have a "hog killin". As families tended to be large in the Smoky Mountains, it was not uncommon for a family to kill up to ten hogs at a time. Though barbaric, "hog killins" were thought to be necessary for survival. Once killed, the pork was spiced and smoked over a slow fire. The pork was made into hams, jowl, bacon, hogshead cheese, sausage, etc and was kept in the smokehouse until needed.

John P. Cable Mill--
In Cades Cove there were few sources of power which the frontiersman knew how to harness. One of those power sourcescable mill was the water wheel such as drove the early grist mills. Cable Mill is one of those. The Smoky Mountains Natural History Association keeps Cable Mill running in Cades Cove to teach the Smoky Mountain visitor a little about life in the 1800's. The mill is operated April-October.

A handful of enterprising residents in Cades Cove built water driven mills to grind grain. Their hope was that other Cades Cove families would prefer paying them to grind the grain rather than to struggle with the small inefficient tub mills at home. The tub mills were only capable of processing a bushel of corn each day. The entrepreneurs were correct and ran fine business in Cades Cove as a result.

Cornmeal was the only grain that could be ground in the tub mills and so the waterwheel driven mills that could grind wheat into flour was a welcome addition to the cove. Now biscuits could be eaten some of the time instead of cornbread.

Payment for grinding grain did not always mean money exchanged hands in Cades Cove. Sometimes money was paid but other times the miller was paid a portion of the resulting flour or meal. Besides John Cable, his son and also Frederick Shields operated mills. Cable and Shields took double advantage of their waterwheel by using it to power saw mills as well. Cable was the only person in Cades Cove to use the overshot water wheel. Like most business men in the Cove, Cable was also a farmer. He could be summoned from the fields by a large bell he had on the property for that purpose.

In the history of Cades Cove, the saw mills were important because they changed the way people built houses. Before the saw mills, homes were built of logs. After the saw mills, the homes were built almost exclusively of lumber and frame construction. Also, most owners of the log homes in Cades Cove bought lumber for siding to cover the fact that they were living in old fashioned cabins. This practice of siding cabins was very common in America. Some people with homes from the 1800's are rediscovering their homes past. As they remove siding in order to make repairs the discovery is made that their house is really a cabin with board siding over it. Some choose to restore their house by removing the boards and letting the original cabin show through.

Mill flume
cable mill flue
The mill flume was a device used by Cades Cove's pioneers to divert water from a stream to power a mill. The water turned a large waterwheel by falling on the large paddles.

Cantilever Barn
Another feature of the Cable Mill display of Cades Cove is the preserved Cantilever barn, a design in which the upper story was larger than its base. This design allowed animals which were normally outside to stand underneath the overcantilever barn hang in order to get out of the sun or rain. The farm animals resting under the eaves in Cades Cove would have included pigs, hogs, chickens, goats, and in wintertime, cattle. In summer cove farmer's cattled were kept on the grassy balds of the Great Smoky Mountains. Gregory's Bald is one still in existence today and was named for one of the men who made their living looking after the cattle in the summertime. Also, farm equipment could be kept dry if placed under the large eaves of the cantilevered barn as there were no posts or walls to get in the way.

Blacksmith Shop
Every farmer in the Smokies needed the talents of a blacksmith and so when James V. Cable,smoke house son of John P. Cable inherited the mill and farm from his father, he decided to also become a blacksmith. Perhaps he was inspired to do this because of the many people bringing grain and logs to be milled by means of wagons drawn by mules and horses. Once the products were milled, it was more convenient for his customers to also have their animals shod rather than traveling somewhere else. Mules and horses, so helpful in farm work needed their metal shoes pulled and reset about every eight weeks, so this produced a constant need for blacksmiths.

To reset the shoes of Cades Cove's horses, the blacksmith had to nip the nail ends off and then pull the horses shoes off. Next he had to trim the hoofs down as they grow like fingernails. Last the blacksmith had to either reset the old shoe or make new shoes for the animal. This involved heating metal until it was white hot and shaping it into a shoe.

Aside from shoeing horses, the Smoky Mountain blacksmiths made all sorts of metal products for the home, farm and light industry. Other products made by blacksmiths might include plows, nails, adzes, axes, chains, hinges, bolts, hammers, hoes, bits, hooks, broadaxes, kitchen knives and drawknives. For these services, the blacksmiths of Cades Cove were certainly welcome and well respected for their skills.

whitehead cabinHenry Whitehead Place
Life was not always perfect in Cades Cove or the Smokies generally. Divorces and Separations though rare sometimes happened. Take Matilda Shields Gregory for instance. She and her young son were deserted by her husband. But in the Cades Cove culture, if you had family nearby, you had help. Her brothers quickly built a small mountain cabin to give her shelter, no small task when you consider they also had to build the fireplace and chimney too. Reflecting the speed with which they had to obtain shelter for their sister, the cabin was one of the roughest in Cades Cove. Its logs were rough-hewn with a felling axe with a stone chimney made of rubble.

In time Matilda was re-married the widower Henry Whitehead who in 1898, out of love and sympathy built her one of the nicest log homes in Cades Cove. Matilda and Henry Whitehead's new Smokies home had a brick chimney, unheard of in Cades Cove at the time. In Cades Cove if you wanted bricks you had to make them yourself. The process was accomplished by finding clay soil, and digging and then filling a hole with water. The surrounding clay soil was then scrapped and stirred with a hoe until thick and smooth. Then the wet clay was put into molds where the bricks were dried. Afterwards the bricks were fired to make them durable. Later Henry stacked his bricks with mortar into one of the first chimneys in Cades Cove.
The rest of their Cades Cove cabin was made of square-sawed logs that were finely finished inside to be smooth and attractive. In fact the cabin was so nice that it looked very much like the frame homes which were soon to become fashionable when the first sawmills were constructed in Cades Cove.

The couple's masterpiece was especially warm according to Cades Cove standards as square log construction was naturally well insulated by approximately four inches thick walls and practically no space between the logs. The Henry and Matilda Whitehead place is the only square-sawed log home to remain in Cades Cove as well as the only one left in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is considered a transition house from the early Cades Cove cabins to the modern frame homes that later were popular in Cades Cove.

Cades Cove Nature Trail
This Smokies trail is particularly beautiful in the Spring when the dogwoods bloom and also in the Fall when the sourwoods and maples turn a beautiful red. Once the location of a Chestnut tree grove, The Cades Cove Nature Trail now has many stately pines and oak trees. The Chestnut trees which provided an important source of food for early cove settlers, were killed by disease many years ago. Chestnut sprouts still pop up in this area of the Smoky Mountains.

Hyatt Lane
The other end of Hyatt lane offers the Smoky Mountain visitor an opportunity to cut back across Cades Cove. About a mile down the road is an opportunity to view the cove from its center and to repeat some of your favorite spots in Cades Cove. Hyatt lane is a two way gravel road and was named for the Hyatt's who came to Cades Cove from North Carolina.

Dan Lawson Place
Lawson married Peter cable's daughter and built this cabin for his bride on property he bought from his father-in-lawdan lawson place. Unusual for the Smokies in the 1850's, this cabin has a brick chimney. As were most bricks in Cades Cove, they were handmade on the property. A pre-Civil War dwelling, the original cabin was made of hewn logs but was altered at times by the addition of sawed lumber. Lawson also expanded his land holdings from time to time eventually owning a large strip of land which stretched from ridge to ridge.

Tipton Place in Cades Cove
Miss Lucy and Miss Lizzie, were schoolmarms in Cades Cove in the second half of the 1800's. They were daughters of Colonel Hamp Tipton, a veteran of the revolutionary war, who shortly after the Civil War, built this two story home. The Smoky Mountain homestead he built, eventually included a smokehouse, a woodshed, corn crib, blacksmith shop, cantilever barn, and an apiary for bees. Tipton sold land to and hence was surrounded by many of his family and friends. A few of those include Joshua Job, Jacob and Isaac Tipton, Thomas Jones.

In 1878, their house was rented to James McCaulley, who was trying to settle in the cove. McCaulley was a welcome newcommer to Cades Cove as he was a blacksmith. In time, McCaulley built his own home along with top quality blacksmith and carpentry shops. McCaulley was a trusted blacksmith, carpenter and coffin maker, working in Cades Cove for a quarter of a century.

Across the road from the Tipton house is a Cantilever barn, once a common site in the Smokies. It is a replica of the barn which was there in the 1800's. Notice its two pen design and its huge eaves. This design allowed overhang protection for outside animals and equipment, and provided complete shelter for stalled animals, and an isle between the pens large enough to accommodate a wagon.

Carter Shields Cabin
carter shields cabin
George Washington "Carter" Shields lived in his Cades Cove cabin from 1910 through 1921. A beautiful location in which to retire, Shields was crippled in the Battle of Shiloh. Dogwood trees bloom here in the early spring making this cabin one of the loveliest in the Cades Cove.

Sparks Lane--
When you come to Sparks Lane again, you have come to the end of the Cades Cove Auto tour. Sparks Lane is the other end of the first road you saw at the beginning of the Cades Cove loop which cut across the cove. You can turn left on Sparks Lane and repeat the tour or continue on the Cades Cove Loop to go to the picnic tables, the campground or to exit Cades Cove.

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