The Oconaluftee Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

… feeling great in OCONALUFTEE!

Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum

 The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is a must stop for any visit to the Great Smoky Mountains! Entrance to the Center is free and it is open to the public every day except Christmas day. The Visitor Center has plenty of parking for cars, RVs and motor coaches. Public restrooms and vending machines are available to the left of the Center’s main entrance. You will find everything you need to experience the Park at your own pace.

The Visitor Center offers a unique view into the area’s past at the Mountain Farm Museum – a collection of historic log buildings from the late 19th century that were relocated here from all over North Carolina in the 1950’s. 

 Things To Do in Oconaluftee

  • Fishing – The Oconaluftee river and all its tributaries feature an abundant wild trout population. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required within park boundaries and may be acquired at nearby communities or online from North Carolina at ncwildlife.org or in Tennessee at tn.wildlifelicense.com.
  • Camping – A 138-site campground is located in the valley one mile away in Smokemont and is open mid-March through October for tents or RVs up to 31 feet. Group camping is available through advanced reservations. Back country camping requires a permit. For more info, go to recreation.gov.
  • Hiking – The easy 1.6 mile Oconaluftee River Trail begins near the entrance to the Museum. It is stroller-accessible and follows its namesake stream. It crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway and continues to the park border with Cherokee.
    The Mingus Creek Trail is the tail-end of the Great Smoky Mountains portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail which stretches 6.2 miles from near Newton Bald and runs 3.3 miles down toward Deeplow Gap Trail from the Deep Creek area. From there a 2.9 mile section leads to US 441, just north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.A 20-mile leg of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail connects Oconaluftee with the Appalachian Trail near the summit of Clingmans Dome.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Getting There

From Cherokee  – 2 miles north on Hwy 441.occonoluftee-directions-heysmokies
From Gatlinburg – 30 miles south on Hwy 441.
From Townsend – 23 miles east on Little River road. Turn right on Hwy 441 (Newfound Gap Road) and proceed south 28 miles.

WINTER ROAD STATUS
Park roads may close due to snow and ice, especially at high elevation during winter months. Check road status by following twitter.com/SmokiesRoadsNPS or by calling 865-436-1200 ext. 631.

The Visitor Center Offers

  • Relief Map – A giant, raised relief map which reveals all of the park trails and roads in great detail. This map provides a sense of the dramatic changes in terrain a park visitor can experience by foot or car.
  • Information Desk – Staffed by park rangers and volunteers who can answer any questions you may have about your visit.
  • Gift Shop – Selling souvenirs of all types, including a great selection of books about flora and fauna, Smoky Mountain history, wildlife, pioneer stories, mountain legends, etc. The shop provides quality topographic maps of the area, basic hiking gear, patches, paintings, traditional mountain food hard goods, and much more.
  • Museum – Hear the voices of Smoky Mountain past! Recordings of early mountain residents relating their experiences and artifacts of mountain life are on display.

oconaluftee-elk-river-great-smoky-mountians-heysmokies

 VISITOR CENTER HOURS

Jan-Feb 8:00 am-4:30 pm
Mar 8:00 am-5:00 pm
Apr-May 8:00 am-6:00 pm
June-Aug 8:00 am-7:30 pm
Sept-Oct 8:00 am-6:30 pm
Nov 8:00 am-5:00 pm
Dec 8:00 am-4:30 pm

Explore the Mountain Farm Museum

The house, barn, apple house, spring house, and smokehouse provide an idea of how families worked and lived more than a century ago and depict a typical mountain farm during the pioneer days in Appalachia. The Chestnut log construction of the Davis House, relocated from near Bryson City, is a nostalgic nod to the giant Chestnut trees which once blanketed much of the Smokies prior to a blight that decimated the trees during the 1930s and early 40s. Area visitors gain an insight into historic agricultural practices through the gardens that are planted in spring and summer. A large stand of cane is harvested each fall and used in a portable “cane grinder” to manufacture cane syrup in several locations within the park. A barn, located at the site, is more than 50-feet wide and 60-feet long. A modern 2,500 sq. ft. home would fit in the barn’s loft. Demonstrations of farm life and ranger-led programs are conducted seasonally. An exciting recent addition to Oconaluftee is the appearance of several large Elk that frequent the broad grassy meadow.

A museum, located next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, was built in 1947 by the civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a ranger station and magistrate’s courtroom. The stone and log cabin was designated as a “temporary” visitor center in 1947 but maintained that title until a new “green design” 1,700 square foot center, the first new visitor service facility constructed in the park since the early 1960s, and also the first designed explicitly as a full-service visitor center, was dedicated in 2011. The Great Smoky Mountains Association provided three million dollars for the facility and Friends of the Smokies donated more than half a million more to provide for inside exhibits which depict the history of life in these mountains from native Americans and early European settlement through the Civilian Conservation Corps and the development of the national park. This is also the site of the Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Public restrooms, vending machines, and backcountry permits are available.

History

The Oconaluftee area parallels the Oconaluftee River basin which gradually broadens on a southward journey from Smokemont toward the southern tip of the Quallah which comprises the reservation for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. According to the journals of John Bartram, written in 1775, the term Oconaluftee comes from the Cherokee village named Egwanulti, which means “by the river.” The Cherokee considered the waters of the Oconaluftee sacred and legend has it that the part of the river called Ya’nu-u’nata wasti’yi translated into “where the bears wash,” refers to waters that legend says would heal hunting wounds sustained by the bears. While the Cherokee roamed throughout the Smokies, this is the only known permanent Cherokee settlement within the park boundary. It is thought the village was most likely destroyed in 1776 during the American Revolution.

mingus-mill-heysmokies

Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill

A half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is historic Mingus Mill. Constructed in 1886, the mill, still located on its original site, relies on a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power the mill. An onsite miller demonstrates the process of grinding corn into cornmeal. Cornmeal and other meal-related items are available for purchase at the mill which is open from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from mid-March through mid-November and also on Thanksgiving weekend.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center Green Facts

  • Exterior walls are cement fiberboard that is impervious to rot and insect damage.
  • Roof shingles, composed of recycled post-industrial rubber and designed to look like slate, have a 50-year life-span.
  • A geothermal heating and cooling system circulates water underground to reach the earth’s constant temperature of 55 degrees then returns the water to heat and cool the center.
  • Lighting is designed to vary with the amount of natural light entering the building. Sun sensors automatically dim the lights on sunny days. Solar tube skylights and clerestory windows also reduce the need for additional lighting.
  • Low flow restroom plumbing fixtures rely on rain water runoff from the roof which is collected and stored in cisterns.
  • The center also uses recycled materials such as rubber flooring and recycled carpets along with some American chestnut wood salvaged from old barns.
  • Twenty percent of the materials used in construction of the center were manufactured or harvested within 500 miles, thus also reducing the use of fossil fuels for shipping.

More Hey Smokies Features:

Cades Cove Loop Lope 2019
Cades Cove Loop Lope 2019...
Cades Cove Loop Lope is a Great Smoky Mountain Special Event! The Cades Cove Foot Race (AKA – the Cades Cove Loop Lope) hosted by Friends of the[Read More >>]
Ginseng Harvesting
Ginseng Harvesting...
Ginseng Harvesting. Ginseng; miracle plant? Fact or fiction? There are many uses for this fascinating native plant that grows wild and randomly [Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Farmers Markets. Get Your Fresh On!...
Yum Yum! Photo credit: foodie.com Smoky Mountain Farmers Markets. Get Your Fresh On! Smoky Mountain Farmers Markets are open for business! [Read More >>]
Wheels Through Time Museum Showcases Rare Motorcycles
Wheels Through Time Museum Showcases Rare Motorcycles...
Wheels Through Time Museum Showcases Rare Motorcycles. Seventeen of the world’s rarest bikes will be on display for a limited time. Dale’s Wheel[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Pinball Museum's
Smoky Mountain Pinball Museum's...
  Smoky Mountain Pinball Museum's. Gatlinburg’s Pinball Museum offers a step back in time for gamers. The metallic sound of quarters dropp[Read More >>]
Biltmore Gardens Railway
Biltmore Gardens Railway...
Biltmore Gardens Railway is on display at Biltmore Estate from May 24, 2019 through September 29, 2019. For a limited time, in the Conservatory [Read More >>]
Rhododendron Festivals
Rhododendron Festivals...
Rhododendron Festivals at Roan Mountain and Grandfather Mountain herald the beginning of summer. Roan Mountain and Mother Nature team up to show[Read More >>]
Cades Cove Car Ban
Cades Cove Car Ban...
Cades Cove Car Ban began May 2019. Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to motor vehicles from sunrise until 10:00 a.m. on both Wednesday and Sat[Read More >>]
Catawba Brewery White Zombie 5K
Catawba Brewery White Zombie 5K...
Catawba Brewery White Zombie 5K. Asheville’s Catawba Brewing Company sponsors White Zombie 5k. The first-ever White Zombie 5k on will be run Sat[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon...
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon will be viewable Monday, June 17, 2019. The name Strawberry Moon was universally used by the Algonquin native Ame[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event...
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event. Star gazing is always a Smoky Mountains special event. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a stargaz[Read More >>]
North America's Longest Footbridge
North America's Longest Footbridge...
North America's Longest Footbridge. Gatlinburg Sky Bridge Opens May 17, 2019. When you travel to Gatlinburg you will have no trouble finding the[Read More >>]
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest...
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest is scheduled for Saturday, June 1, 2019 from 11 a.m. til 3 p.m. at the ABR Visitor and Education Center, 121[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail...
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail. Beginning May 13, 2019 work begins on improving the much loved Trillium Gap trail. This[Read More >>]
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg...
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg. The Highlander Games of Gatlinburg (HUGG) are always a Smoky Mountain special event! The games retur[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Tamale recipe. Homemade tamales are always a Smoky Mountain special event! Did you know that the Smoky Mountains are on the edge [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events...
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events. Cinco de Mayo (which actually means May 5 in Spanish) is always a Smoky Mountain special event and is proba[Read More >>]
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests...
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests beginning May 2019. This is sure to be a great year for America's favorite theme park. The Wildwood Gro[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe. Ramps, allium tricoccum, have been a Smoky Mountain secret delicacy for generations. This delicious bulb and i[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced...
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced. Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont [Read More >>]