5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas for visitors of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With so many things to do in and around the 11 mile loop road, the location is a hot spot for spotting wildlife, photography, hiking, biking, horseback riding, or just a scenic drive. The area comes with a lot of history, including more than 90 structures predating the national park, but most visitors probably don't know these interesting facts about Cades Cove.

1. Cades Cove Caves

Cades Cove is home to several impressive Tennessee caves. Gregory's Cave was home to trilobite and brachiopod fossils. Gregory's Cave was developed commercially and opened to the public in 1925 and continued to be shown by the Gregory family until 1935. Later during the Cold War, it was designated as a fallout shelter with a capacity of 1,000 people! It's also rumored that it may have been involved in the manufacturing of moonshine.

Another significant cave near Cades Cove is Bull Cave, the deepest cave in Tennessee, with a depth of 924 feet. The entrance is near the trailhead for Ace Gap Trail; however, this is one of the Tennessee caves that is not accessible to the public.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cades Cove

2. The Otter Place

In the late 1700s, the Cherokee people had established a settlement around what we now know as Cades Cove called Tsiya'hi meaning "Otter Place". It's likely that they used the area around Cove Creek as a seasonal hunting camp. It has been reported by early explorers of the area that the creek was stocked with North American River Otter, which were extinct by the time European settlers arrived. Cades Cove was eventually named after the leader of Tsiya'hi, Chief Kade.

3. Underground...?

You may have heard of the April Fool's joke that John Oliver's cabin had a secret entrance to a centuries-old underground city beneath the cove. While this is most certainly false, it is rumored that Cades Cove may have been a part of the Underground Railroad. The area was a hot spot for abolitionist activity and Union supporters, and legends say that Dr. Calvin Post (1803–1873) set up a stop for fleeing slaves in Cades Cove.

John Oliver's homestead in Cades Cove
John Oliver's homestead in Cades Cove

4. Moonshine

The Chestnut Flats area of Cades Cove near the base of Gregory Bald was well known for housing moonshine distillers. It was confined to this area because the primitive baptists in Cades Cove were vehemently opposed to the consumption of alcohol. Many of these citizens would report stills they came across to the authorities. John Oliver, whose homestead remains in the cove today, frequently reported them on his mail carrying route.

Moonshine Facts
All these men are public outlaws, and were never recognized as true, loyal mountaineers or as true American citizens, by the rank and file of the mountain people.John W. Oliver

5. The National Park

Like several other areas in the national park, Cades Cove was home to settlers many years before the park was established. These residents put up the most resistance to its formation. Originally they were assured that Cades Cove would not be a part of the national park. But in 1927, the Tennessee General Assembly granted power for the Park Commission to seize these properties, leading to outrage in the community.

Colonel David Chapman from Knoxville, who was head of the Park Commission at the time, received a handful of threats via phone call and written messages. One message on a sign near the entrance to Cades Cove read COL. CHAPMAN: YOU AND HOAST ARE NOTFY, LET THE COVE PEOPL ALONE. GET OUT. GET GONE. 40 M. LIMIT. The 40 mile limit referred to the distance between Cades Cove and Knoxville.

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