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Great Smoky Mountains National Park (5)  



The Smoky Mountains

Forest & Stream

Newfound Gap

Clingman's Dome

Sugarlands Area

Oconoluftee Area

Cades Cove Area

Cades Cove Buildings





Cades Cove Area

One of the most interesting and popular areas in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is Cades Cove. The valley, 6 miles in length and furnishing some 3,000 acres of valuable level land, preserves farmland and buildings much as they existed in the 19th Century.This area preserves the houses, farms, churches, and work places of a community which existed there for many years.

Farming in the mountainous regions of the Smokies was very difficult, and the Cades Cove area was very valuable because of the flat land which existed there. A cove is a term denoting a valley with low mountain slopes surrounding it, rich soil, lots of sunshine, and the right amount of rain to produce rich, arable land.

In 1819 the Cherokee Nation relinquished its claim to the area in which Cades Cove is located. Families began to move into Cades Cove in 1821 folowing the initial land claim by John Oliver in 1820. By 1850 the settlement boasted 132 households and 685 people, although it could not really sustain this many people and the population began to decline, dropping to as low as 275 people 10 years later. In 1936 the area became part of Great Smoky National Park.

The Cades Cove area is relatively isolated, a forested limestone valley surround by tall mountains, and was separated from the main American markets. As a result, the people of Cades Cove provided almost all of their own food for themselves. In the fields pictured here they raised corn and wheat as their staple crops, as well as oats and rye. Apple, peach and plum trees were also introduced. As was characteristic of some mountaineers, a bit of moonshine was also distilled.

The farmers of Cades Cove cleared the heavy forests from the floor of the valley so that they could farm the fields. After the establishment of the park, in the 1940's, the National Park Service decided to maintain the cleared fields and restore the farmsteads so as to provide a view of how the cove existed in the years 1825-1900. Without such an effort, the forest would reclaim these fields in not too many years.

Clearing the trees from these fields using 19th century technology was very difficult. Some trees were so large and numerous that simply cutting them down was not possible. Typically, the very large trees were first girdled with an axe, and then left to die while some preliminary crops were planted in the area. Several years later trees thus treated could be felled, piled, and burned.

In addition to clearing the forest for the farm fields, the settlers also reclaimed swampy sections of the Cove with log booms and dikes.

The flat land of the cove was used by settlers for crops of corn, wheat, oaks, and rye.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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