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5 Common Great Smoky Mountain Myths and Legends

If you’ve spent time reading about or exploring the Smoky Mountains, we bet you’ve heard a myth or two about the area. In fact, there are a few common myths and legends circling around about the Smokies — some that could be true and some that are definitely not true. Read on to learn about 5 common Smoky Mountain myths and legends.

1. Cougars can still be found in the Smokies today.

One of the common Smoky Mountain myths that some believe is that cougars can be found roaming the mountains. Although cougars were once an integral part of the Smokies, they were hunted out by the early settlers by the late 1800s. There have been a number of cougar sightings in the Smoky Mountains in recent years, but they’ve all turned out to be hoaxes. Dan Gibbs of the Tennessee Wildlife Agency in Morrisville said that there’s never been a bona fide claim, and most “cougar” sightings are more than likely bobcats or coyotes.

2. The “smoke” is from a fog machine.

view of the Smoky MountainsAnother myth you may have heard is that the “smoke” in the mountains is actually from a fog machine. Of course, this myth is definitely false! The fog comes from the area’s vegetation. In addition to oxygen, places exhale volatile organic compounds. A high concentration of VOCs can cause fog. The Smokies are home to millions of trees, bushes, and other plants that give off vapor and result in the mountains’ signature smoky look. To learn more about this, read our blog, “What Makes the Smoky Mountains Smoky?”.

3. There’s a lost mine in Greenbrier.

Rumor has it that there’s a lost mine in the Greenbrier section of the national park! The legend claims that around the time of the Civil War, blacksmith Perry Shults struck gold in Greenbrier Cove. In 1867, Shults got a corporate charter that allowed him to mine in the area, although the charter was only licensed for mining silver, lead, copper, and zinc. Shults was always remembered as having plenty of silver dollars in his pockets even though most men in the area had no money. It is said that the mine included a long tunnel beginning at Porters Flat in Tennessee and ending on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. Over the years, many have visited Greenbrier Cove to try to discover the mine, but no one has ever found it.

4. Cades Cove is haunted.

Henry Whitehead cabin Cades CoveMany people believe that the popular Cades Cove might actually be haunted! Some visitors like to think that’s the reason the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed at night. There are even a few Cades Cove ghost stories circling around that suggest some of the historic structures in the park might be haunted. The Henry Whitehead cabin is one of the most talked about places in Cades Cove that is rumored to be haunted! One of the famous Cades Cove ghost stories is The Cussing Cover, where a woman’s greatest fear was being struck by lightning. The woman, Mavis Estep, ended up passing away due to illness, and her husband remarried less than a year later. One night, her husband’s new wife claims Mavis appeared in the room and started screaming and cussing. Then, a stray bolt of lightning came and struck her husband dead. You can read the full ghost story here.

5. The National Park “lets” the bears out.

Another Smoky Mountain myth that is definitely not true is that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park “lets the bears out.” With the recent bear sightings throughout the Smoky Mountain area, rumors have started that bears are being “released” from the national park. Questions have come in asking when the national park lets the bears out from visitors hoping to spot some wildlife on their vacations. This, of course, is not true. The Smoky Mountains are home to over 1,500 black bears. Many wander out of the park to look for food. If you happen to see a black bear in the Smoky Mountain area during your visit, just know that it’s completely by chance and not because a park ranger decided to “let it” roam out of the park!

These are just some of the many common Smoky Mountain myths and legends we’ve heard over the years! To learn some true facts about the Smoky Mountains, read our blog, “7 Basic Facts About the Smoky Mountains That Might Surprise You.”