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Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains

All Smoky Mountain Vacations
214 Sharon Dr.
Seymour, TN  37865

The Cherokee Indians called Cades Cove Tsiyahi, meaning otter place. They used the Cove to gather food, hunt and to develop a trail system used by settlers, but the Cherokee never lived within the Cove. Historians associate the name "Cade" to the Cherokee as well, either from Chief Cade, a regular visitor to the Cove or Kate, the wife of Chief Abraham of Chilhowee.


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In 1819, rights to Cades Cove, known as the Calhoun Treaty, were given to the State of Tennessee and few Cherokee remained. In 1821, pioneers from Virginia and later North Carolina, settled in the Cove bringing old world knowledge, tools, and skills they learned from the Indians. The Oliver, Tipton, Gregory, Sparks, Burchfield and Cable families were among the first to settle, clearing the land for homes, barns, smoke-houses and corncribs.

With crops like corn, gristmills, used to grind the corn into wheat and flour, became the Cove's first industry, followed by blacksmith shops, wood workers, storekeepers and distillers. The Cable Mill Historic Area & Visitor Center, stop 11 on the Cove tour, operates today with the assistance of the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association. By the 1850's, Cades Cove supported about 132 families or 685 people.

John P. Cable Gristmill in Cades Cove - Stop 11 on the Cades Cove auto tour

In 1927, after the federal government took control of much of the land north of the Cove, most farmers sold their land. Original settlers had moved to go work for ALCOA and other hydro-electric projects and others headed West. 

Great-grandson to one of the earliest settlers, John W. Oliver, fought the state for 6 years to keep his land, however the TN. Supreme Court rejected that idea and in December of 1937, Oliver moved. Some families were allowed to remain in the Cove with certain restrictions, but many left and by 1944 the last school was shut down and the Post Office was closed in 1947.

Today, Cades Cove is the most visited part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 2 million visitors per year and is also a "historic district." With the farmers gone, farming had left and officials issued permits to cattle owners to allow grazing. At the same time, the Soil Conservation Service drained most of the Cove into the Western end. Repairs on the ditches, once dug out by the original farmers, are being done to preserve the wetlands and grazing and haying has been phased out. 

The 11 mile one-way loop is a paved circle of history, homesteads, grist mills, churches and the pioneer way of life. To truly experience the scenery, wildlife and tranquility, park the car and take a stroll!

The Cove's nature is bears, skunks, raccoons, coyote, wild turkeys, woodchucks and white-tailed deer...just to name a few...roam the open fields and forested mountains of the Cove. Restored settler homes, barns and churches remain preserved, depicting the pioneer way of life inside the Cove.

You can spend a entire day inside the Cove with the whole family and not experience it all! Other than the 18 must stops on the Cove loop, the Cades Cove Campground offers a disposal station, wood for sale, bicycle rentals and a small grocery store. You don't have to be a camper to enjoy the many activities.

Cades Cove Loop Map

Guided tours near the Cove are available on horseback for $25.00 per person, carriage rides for $10.00 per person, hay rides for $6.00 per person and ranger-led guided hay rides for $8.00 per person.

The Cove Loop Road is closed to motor vehicles on Saturdays and Wednesdays until 10 am until late September. Bicycles are always welcome and bike rentals are available from April through January. Restroom facilities are available at Orientation Shelter/Ranger Station at the Cove entrance and the Cable Mill Area and Visitor Center.

All Smoky Mountain Vacations
214 Sharon Dr.
Seymour, TN 37865

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