8 Shocking Secrets of Cades Cove You Won’t Believe

Grassy view of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Cades Cove is known as one of the most peaceful and relaxing areas in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, the silence and beauty do not exclude this area of the national park from having a few little secrets hidden away.

Which of these secrets of Cades Cove shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

(See Related: 13 Facts About the Smoky Mountains You Won’t Believe)

1. No American Indians Ever Lived in Cades Cove

According to the National Park Service’s website on Cades Cove, there is no archeological evidence supporting the theory that Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee Indians, ever called Cades Cove home. There is evidence that proves that the Cherokee tribe used this area for hunting for hundreds of years, however the European settlers were the first to ever establish residency here.

Interestingly enough, after the early settlers came in 1821, the population of Cades Cove quickly rose above 685 by 1850.

2. Cades Cove’s First Name Was Kate’s Cove

Double rainbow in Cades CoveCades Cove has had several names over the centuries. The Cherokee Indians once called this area “Tsiya’hi” or “Otter Place.” However when the European settlers moved in, they changed the name to Kate’s Cove in honor of Chief Abraham of the Chilhowee tribe’s wife, Kate.

Chief Abraham is also who Abrams Creek is named after.

The name was later changed to Cades Cove in remembrance of Tsiya’hi leader, Chief Kade.

There is also documents that support that early settlers often referred to the area simply as The Cove.

3. The John P. Cable Mill Was Not the First Cades Cove Mill

More likely than not, if you are asked which was the first mill built in Cades Cove you will answer the John P. Cable Mill. There is no denying that the Cable Mill is the most popular mill to be associated with the area, mainly because it is the only one still in operation, but it was not in fact the first.

Robert Shields, a Revolutionary War veteran of Virginia, purchased 1,600 acres from William Tipton in 1831. On this land, Shields built the first overshot water-powered grist and flour mill in Cades Cove with the help of David Emmett. Shields is also responsible for helping build a bloomery forge to produce a lower-grade of iron in the area.

4. Some Historic Buildings in Cades Cove Have Been Moved

Cantilever barn in Cades CoveSpeaking of the John P. Cable Mill, it is interesting to note that many of the historic buildings in Cades Cove surrounding the mill are not in their original location. The mill itself is, but most of the other buildings in the complex were brought in from elsewhere in the park.

Buildings that were moved include The Gregg-Cable House. Originally located on Forge Creek Road, the Gregg-Cable House was originally built by Leason Gregg in 1879 after he bought an acre of land from John P. Cable. Gregg lived in this building with his family while operating a store out of the first floor.
In 1887, Gregg sold the house to Rebecca Cable and her brother Dan, children of John P. Cable. The siblings continued to operate the store on the first floor for roughly 8 years before turning the home into a residence/boarding house.

Both the blacksmith shop and the Visitor Center were built after the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. That being said, the blacksmith shop does replicate the type of structure that one would typically see during the time of the early settlers.

5. Cades Cove is the Only Place on the Tennessee Side of the National Park With a Working Grist Mill

One of the things that makes The Great Smoky Mountains National Park different is that it is one of the few national parks in the country that was created with land that was once privately owned. Many of the other national parks were made from undeveloped areas of the country.

However, thanks to the successful milling industry that once was found in Cades Cove, this area is home to the only working grist mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the John Cable Mill.

Today, visitors can tour through the mill and watch as workers grind down grains into useable products for baking that can then be purchased at the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

The only other working grist mill in the area can be found at The Old Mill Square in Pigeon Forge.

6. Cades Cove is the Single Most Popular Destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

deer grazing on grass in Cades CoveWith over 2 million visitors annually, Cades Cove holds the tile as the most popular area in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We at Visit My Smokies are not surprised by this number thanks to the overwhelming amount of natural beauty and history that can be found along the Cades Cove Loop Road.

As a whole, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes a total of 9 million visitors annually. This high volume of visits has consistently earned the Smoky Mountains the title of the most popular national park in the United States year after year.

7. Cades Cove is the Only Section of the National Park That Closes at Night

What makes being the most popular area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park even more special for Cades Cove is that it is also the only section of the park to close at night.

The gate at the main entrance of Cades Cove closes at sunset every night. Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck in the area all night if you find yourself in Cades Cove after the gate closes. There is another exit on the loop road that you can take.

8. The Entrance to Cades Cove Isn’t the Original Entrance

Hyatt Road in Cades CoveThat is correct. For the 100 years before The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, residents and visitors entered and left Cades Cove by five narrow unpaved roads. The entrance that we use today was not built until after the park was established in 1934.

The five roads used were:

  • Crib Gap Road traveled east to the Anderson Turnpike which then went to Tuckaleechee Cove
  • Rich Mountain Road to Tuckaleechee was used by people who lived near the center of Cades Cove
  • Cooper Road was used as the direct route to take residents to Maryville
  • Rabbit Creek Road began at the Abrams Creek Parking Area and headed south to the Happy Valley
  • Parsons Branch connected to Parsons Turnpike in the south

Today, these unpaved roads are now mostly hiking trails used by visitors to the national park. There was a road that followed the same general route as today’s Cades Cove Loop Road that was used by the early settlers. Their version of the road was a two-way unpaved road.

Do you have your own shocking fact about Cades Cove you want to add to this story? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information on Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to visit the Great Smoky Mountains Information page on our website.


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40 thoughts on “8 Shocking Secrets of Cades Cove You Won’t Believe

  1. Avatar for A Realist
    A Realist says:

    Oh, believe me, I can believe that it’s the most popular destination. The last time we went was ridiculously unenjoyable due to the glut of people. Inconsiderate, rude, selfish, ignorant people.

    Stopping their vehicles where explicitly instructed not to. Blocking through traffic to stop and take SELFIES with bears (true story). Moving at a snail’s pace, and not respecting the pull off rule for those who have specific destinations in mind, and might be moving a little faster.

    I love this area, greatly. But I loved it more when it and the surrounding towns were a choice few’s little secret. It’s too touristy now, and not my idea of a fun and stress-free experience.

  2. Avatar for Oceanhexe
    Oceanhexe says:

    Very interesting article about Cades Cove! It really is beautiful there. My father’s family was among the early settlers in that location, so I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

  3. Avatar for Anna King
    Anna King says:

    We love Cades Cove and make a trip there every time we are in the area. Last visit was not as enjoyable as it has always been. when all of the cars stopped to view some bears in a field (which we enjoyed very much) our enjoyment was disturbed by one of the cars in front of us. A young man got out of his car and was loudly proclaiming, “Look at the “M#%&$ F%&*$%$” bear. What a “M#%&$ F%&*$%$” over and over. Along with other such language. There were many families and lots of small children. I hate that such crude people have to ruin what otherwise is a beautiful, enjoyable experience. Many asked him to tone it down and he just directed his language towards them.

    • Avatar for Kaye White Gatlin
      Kaye White Gatlin says:

      There are always people like that in the Smokies and it makes me sick. The same ones destroy the historic cabins by defacing them with graffiti.

    • Avatar for Sue Lacenera
      Sue Lacenera says:

      Seems everywhere you go someone has to ruin a peaceful visit to such a lovely area….

  4. Avatar for Faye
    Faye says:

    My husband’s great-great-great-grandfather, John Oliver, told stories about he & Lurena and baby Polly wouldn’t have survived their first winter in the Cove were it not for the kindness of the Cherokee. They provided meat to the family until the spring.

    For drivers today, there is only one way into the Cove and three ways out. As for the closing? The Rangers are very good about clearing the Cove of all visitors before closing the exit gate.

    I’m not sure why anyone would go to this beautiful place expecting to traverse the loop in less than 3-4 hours. There are millions of people who come to see this treasure we have in our backyard. Some of them have never seen open fields or animals outside the zoo. Cut them some slack. When we go, if there’s a huge line of traffic, we will pull off, take out our lawn chairs and enjoy the beauty.

    The houses? Yeah, none of them that you see today were what was standing when the Park took over. When NPS came in, there were over 600 families living in “modern” frame houses and there were schools, a post office, store, several tub mills. There were even some block homes there. The log cabins were moved in to give an aura of what the Olivers found when they moved from Carter County.

    • Avatar for Jeanie Broyles
      Jeanie Broyles says:

      My Papaw, James Meek Parton, went to Little Greenbriar School. My sister and I would take our Aunt Louise on a yearly pilgrimage up there. It was always so special looking at that creek and imagining Papaw playing in it. There’s just something that renews the soul up there.

  5. Avatar for Melinda Tipton Stites
    Melinda Tipton Stites says:

    General Andrew Jackson (later President) visited the Cove upon the invite of his friend William Tipton who served with him in the war of 1812. They had a bet as to whose horse was faster. William challenged Jackson saying his field horse could out run any of Jackson’s horses. Jackson sent a letter to William and on the day of the supposed arrival of his old friend,William had one of his children look out on a mountain top and signal the approach of Jackson. Once spotted, the child alerted William and helped him switch the plowing horse for his good riding horse and placed it in the field as if it had been working all afternoon. After a warm greeting the two friends set out on their horses. William won the bet. William’s father, Colonel John Tipton (known for the Battle for the State of Franklin against John Sevier) and my 4x great grandfather, Major Jonathan Tipton III (who served with John Sevier at the Battle of Kings Mountain and later Battle of Boyds Creek against the Indians)were brothers.

    • Avatar for Shelly Lynn Carroll
      Shelly Lynn Carroll says:

      I was always told we were related to the Tipton’s in the cove. I haven’t been able to trace anything but I would love to. Do you know if you have any connection to Thomas Stephens Tipton he was my grandpa. If you will look me up on FB Shelly Lynn Carroll I would appreciate it.

  6. Avatar for Tina R Ward
    Tina R Ward says:

    Thank you for this artical. I found it very intresting. We have lived in the are for 13 yrs. And I didnt know any of these things. Thank you so much.

    • Avatar for Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l
      Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l says:

      It is amazing what we can find within a day-trip here in Western N.C. No need to take long expensive vacations when there is so much to see here and all filled with such wonderful history!

  7. Avatar for Joy Leigh Atkinson
    Joy Leigh Atkinson says:

    John Oliver was my fourth Great Grandfather… then Elijah Oliver, William Howell Oliver, John W Oliver, Judge W Wayne Oliver Sr, and finally my own father W Wayne Oliver Jr whose remains were just buried at the Primitive Baptist Church in 2014.
    Anyway, I wanted to share an interesting turn of events we recently discovered (particularly in light of there being no evidence of Cherokee ever inhabiting the Cove).
    We grew up knowing our proud heritage. We were told in great detail about our Cades Cove ancestors. We have family bibles, birth, death and marriages certificates, family letters and of course the stories and memories from my grandfather, great grandfather and their fathers before them. One of the stories held in particularly high regard by my father especially was of our Cherokee roots (primarily through my great grandmother, Nancy Ann Whitehead). We Olivers tend to have dark, curly hair and eyes and are fairly dark complected so this made complete sense to us all.
    So recently, as has now become popular, several members of my immediate family have done DNA testing to see where in the world all our other roots have come from (the Cades Cove lines were never in question as this was information we knew to be absolute fact). And we all got a surprise…
    There is no Native American DNA showing in our lineage at all. None. However… there is a rather significant percentage of West African. And none of us have a clue where it came from.
    I have several working theories, but sadly, most likely I won’t be able to substantiate any of them. But I do have to wonder… the Cove was isolated. Most residents were not confederate sympathisers. Could some residents have sheltered & absorbed someone running from slavery? Maybe knowingly, maybe not… a white passing child of a landowner and slave woman… who knows? Maybe the Cherokee stories were repeated for their protection, not necessarily as a lie, but for everyone’s safety. Maybe after a generation or two those children who had been told the stories just accepted them as fact and passed them on?
    Or maybe someone did lie (as it did become fashionable to claim NA roots in the early 20th century). Maybe the West African came from my mother or grandmother who weren’t from the Cove, but also of southern extraction. I honestly don’t know. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t prefer the first theory. If possible, it makes me even prouder of my Oliver ancestors and other Cove families.
    But I just don’t know…

    • Avatar for Doug Nowell
      Doug Nowell says:

      I just read your grandads book. Actually just finished it which brought me here. Very interesting read. I would love to see a map of where all the original home places were in the cove. Very intriguing to me.

    • Avatar for phil
      phil says:

      I have had my DNA tested also, don’t put any faith in it! Believe the family history! I have WELL documented Indian blood and mine also showed NO Indian! These DNA test are bogus and are in business to make money! My history is passed down from family that knew the 100% Indian in our family, the history is in many books and also from an Indian ed program that researched it.. So don’t sweat it!

    • Avatar for Nicole Beshears Kinyon
      Nicole Beshears Kinyon says:

      My 5th great grandfather was one of the 1st pastors there at the Primitive Baptist church!! Like Phil said don’t put faith in the DNA test. Mom did it and it didn’t show any Native American but there is some down the line including Pocahontas being my 15th great grandmother.

    • Avatar for Teresa Ballantyne
      Teresa Ballantyne says:

      Thanks for sharing your interesting story. Many families have stories that they have Native American DNA, and turn out to be wrong.

    • Avatar for HelenandJack Roberts
      HelenandJack Roberts says:

      We’re from Michigan , my wife’s mamaw lived in the John Oliver cabin as a young girl, Genevea Oliver daughter of Crawford Oliver. We visit the cove every year to enjoy the beauty and serenity. We recently saw a post, on YouTube and several cades cove websites, a video of forest rangers discovering a mile long tunnel that led to an underground city built by the Cherokee. Is this true? We are going to Gatlinburg for the new year festivities and are going to visit the cove, if it is open at the time. It seems very odd yet intriguing. Can’t wait to get there to see for ourselves

  8. Avatar for Larry Rita Brown Fraley
    Larry Rita Brown Fraley says:

    To me the most surprising thing about Cade’s Cove was that there was no Native Americans that lived in the area of the Cove. It is one of our most favorite spots to visit when we go to the Smokies. We love the Smokies.

    • Avatar for Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l
      Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l says:

      We love living in Western N.C. and a two hour drive to Gatlinburg and/or Cades Cove as well as Pigeon Forge. So loved the area that my wife and I got married in Seviereville 19 years ago on August 10th. That was while living in Highlands…we now live in Franklin, N.C.

  9. Avatar for Amber Nicole Hamilton
    Amber Nicole Hamilton says:

    I think it’s neat that the 5 unpaved roads were to get in and out of cades cove. I haven’t gotten to visit but I plan to next time I’m able to make it there

    • Avatar for Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l
      Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l says:

      Just before entering Gatlinburg .. turn at the visitor’s center and continue on to Cades Cove… it seems like a long drive but well worth it!

  10. Avatar for Karen Freeman Johnson
    Karen Freeman Johnson says:

    All I can say is it is the most awesome peaceful place on earth! When I go there I feel so close to heaven is not funny! Love Love Love Cases Cove!

    • Avatar for Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l
      Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l says:

      Now there’s a new name for it! You do realize you can go back and make corrections easily. But for those reading it, she meant Cades Cove. We love it there and have come across bears in trees eating cherries…a mama and two cubs. Also a lot of deer and they almost come right up to your cars – so be careful driving thru there.

      • Avatar for Karen Freeman Johnson
        Karen Freeman Johnson says:

        We “are” talking Cades Cove. Do not think I need a correction! I have been there so many times and also seen bear + other wild life. Do not seem to be smart to you but just seems someone always need to correct!

  11. Avatar for Shari Lilly Flynn
    Shari Lilly Flynn says:

    All of this history you guys are sharing is awesome. The cemetaries are my favorite.. especially the one at the Primative Baptist Church. I love the detail the stones have on them like “Murdered by carolina rebels”. Im just in awe at the history. And we have recently found 3 unmarked cemetaries in The Cove… many with just slate stone markers. I love living in the area. We visit frequently!

    • Avatar for Melinda Tipton Stites
      Melinda Tipton Stites says:

      There are around 14 cemeteries in the Cove. Some that tourists don’t know about. There is one inside a fence with an oak tree in the center. It’s in the middle of a field. A lot of weddings are done at it. The wedding parties don’t know it’s actually a cemetery. The headstones are bare rocks. I’ve seen people move the stones out of the way, not knowing they were graves. I was Bike Patrol there last season.

      Another interesting spot: the Pearl Harbor tree. Google it.

  12. Avatar for Judy Lin Smith-Rodgers
    Judy Lin Smith-Rodgers says:

    Does anyone remember the “fake snow” up in Cade’s Cove, in the SPRING? I have home movies of my family when I was about 3 and we were at Cade’s Cove and there was FAKE SNOW on the ground, flakes of plastic or something and we were playing in it. Weird, huh?

  13. Avatar for Allen Roberson
    Allen Roberson says:

    My family used to live in the area and some of my Roberson ancestors lived in the cove and kin still live in the area as well as Townsend Tennessee. My side moved to Kentucky for the work.

  14. Avatar for Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l
    Lee Garen, Franklin, N.C.l says:

    The Cades Cove area is located near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. We love that area so very much. I could just sit there in several spots and breathe in the air and capture the history! Go thru Seviereville and make a right and there is a cave you can go into with a tour guide. It is beautiful and a wonderful experience.

  15. Avatar for Melinda Tipton Stites
    Melinda Tipton Stites says:

    Andrew Jackson once visited and lost a horse race against one of the Tiptons. They served together at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

  16. Avatar for Steven Klyce
    Steven Klyce says:

    Several years after the Civil War the Chestnut Flats vicinity’s of Cades Cove became notorious for the moonshiners and neardowells that inhabited the area. This conflicted with the religious leanings of many Cove residents. In 1921 a raid on Josiah Gregory’s still started a series of reprisals that formed a local version of Hatfield’s & McCoys. The night after the raid the barns of William and John W. Oliver were burned level with loss of livestock. Following that, relatives were involved in shootings, arrests, and pardons from the Governor. The peace and beauty of the familiar landscape belies a tumultuous past.

    A secret I’m hesitant to share is the mysterious looking, black water pond just beyond the Parson Branch Road turn. I always see deer and other wildlife there.

  17. Avatar for Debbie Richards - Hashbarger
    Debbie Richards - Hashbarger says:

    does anyone know about a family that lived in the 2 story house you have to walk through a long field to get there I was told by someone that the couple that lived there had a daughter and was shot through the wall while cleaning his gun is this factual or not?

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