Smoky Mountain Grist Mills

Mingus Mill was the hub of the beautiful Oconaluftee valley.

Mingus Mill was the hub of the beautiful Oconaluftee valley.

Smoky Mountain grist mills. Mountain streams and rivers provided water power for early grist mills. The fast-moving creeks of the Great Smoky Mountains proved perfect sites for grist mills which were often the gathering place for early pioneers who traveled miles over winding mountain roads and trails to get corn and wheat ground by the great mill stones. Corn was possibly the settler’s most important crop and one of its greatest virtues was that it could by crushed into coarse meal. Corn could be planted on uncleared land and an acre, which provided up to 20 times the yield as an acre of wheat, was a source of food for both the family and farm animals. Corn had a variety of other uses for early residents. Men and women enjoyed smoking ground shuck in corncob pipes; corn shuck was used to stuff mattresses and to make children’s dolls.  It was also found in outhouses (we will leave that to your imagination.)

You can still purchase buhr (stone) ground cornmeal today at several of the active grist mills that remain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cable Mill is one of the many jewels of Cades Cove.

Cable Mill is one of the many jewels of Cades Cove.

John P. Cable Mill in Cades Cove is perhaps one of the most popular and picturesque mills in the Smoky’s. Cable built his mill in the early 1870s along Mill Creek and dug a connecting channel to Forge Creek to insure against times of drought. A low dam directs water from the upper end of a millrace and several water gates allow the regulation of flow. The last water gate is operated by a long lever located inside the mill. The water from the millrace meets the flume and is channeled through a chunk rack which acts as a giant wooden comb preventing debris from entering the 235 foot flume that slopes slightly downward before veering towards the mill and the eleven-foot high overshot waterwheel rising vertically alongside. Water from the flume fills the wheel’s 40-plus buckets- turning the huge wheel and driving a shaft that propels the millstones inside.

Cable considered milling a part time job and his mill had specific hours and days but unexpected arrivals could ring a large bell, located adjacent to the business, to summon Cable from his nearby fields.

Cable’s Mill is located about midway on the road in Cade’s Cove. In addition to the mill, the site also features a vintage farmhouse, barns and outbuildings. During the season, volunteer millers are often on hand to demonstrate the art of grinding grain. The finished products are sold in the park store also located on the property.

Mingus Mill, on its original site, is a scant half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee on U.S. 441. Built in 1886, the mill uses a water powered turbine instead of a water wheel to activate the machinery in the building. Water flows down a millrace to the mill where a working cast iron turbine turns the heavy millstone. An onsite miller demonstrates the process of grinding kernels into cornmeal which is offered for sale, along with other mill items. The grounds are open daily. The miller’s hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. mid-March through mid-December. It is also open Thanksgiving weekend.

Alfred Reagan House and Tub Mill, circa 1900, is one of the best places to imagine just how isolated life in the Smoky’s was for early settlers. Densely forested high ridges surround the narrow valley which is home to the Roaring Fork River- the mill’s source of power. Beyond the sound of rushing water are silence, solitude, and many say a profound sense of loneliness. Nearby, almost perpendicular, overgrown fields where corn was once planted, bear witness to the labor intensive business of farming in these rugged mountains. Reagan’s tub mill, one of the most common types of mills in these mountains, utilized wooden channels to carry water to a primitive horizontal wooden turbine wheel which turned and provided direct drive power to the mill’s stones. A small tub mill could produce about a bushel of cornmeal a day.

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Smoky Mountain Super Moon

Smoky Mountain Super Moon!

Smoky Mountain Super Moon!

Smoky Mountain Super Moon will rise above the Southern Appalachian mountains Wednesday, March 20, 2019. This Smoky Mountain special event is the final Super Moon of the year appearing on the same day as the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring! This super moon is known as the “Full Worm Moon.”  The full moon and the spring equinox arrive within four hours of each other. The last time this occurred was March 2000, but the last time it was on the same date was March 20, 1981.

A “supermoon” means the Moon will be almost at its closest point to the Earth for the month. This is the third and final supermoon of 2019. The moon will seem bigger and brighter than normal.

Traditionally Native American and other historical names for full Moons were used to keep track of the seasons. Each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month during which it appears. The Moon we view in March is known as the Full Worm Moon. During this time of year the ground begins to soften from the cold extremes of winter inviting earthworms to begin to appear and do their thing. Robins and other birds begin to feed on them and this was always considered a verifiable sign of spring. This re-birth of the earth is accompanied by roots pushing their way through the soil with green shoots popping up.

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Smoky Mountain Visitors Centers Open MLK Weekend

Smoky Mountain visitors centers open for MLK holiday weekend

Smoky Mountain visitors centers open for MLK holiday weekend

Smoky Mountain Visitors Centers Open MLK Weekend. Friends of the Smokies will temporarily fund the reopening of Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., Friday through Monday, Jan. 18-21, 2019.

Visitation to the park usually increases during these dates due to the Martin Luther King, Jr.  holiday. Both visitor centers will be open Friday 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Following the closure Monday evening, the two visitor centers will again close until federal funding is restored and the park fully reopens.

We are proud to commit funding for the visitor centers and restrooms to reopen during the holiday weekend in order for rangers to provide a safe and enjoyable visitor experience,” Friends of the Smokies Executive Director Tim Chandler said. “Any opportunity to work with our partners to preserve and protect America’s most-visited national park is a welcome one, and Friends of the Smokies stands at the ready to provide further support.

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Some Great Smoky Mountain National Park Facilities Open Despite Government Shutdown

Smoky Mountain Park Closure update.

Smoky Mountain Park Closure update.

Some Great Smoky Mountain National Park Facilities Open Despite Government Shutdown. Beginning Sunday January 13, 2019 some basic services to visitors will reopen using revenue generated by recreational fees. Limited visitor services including  restrooms and campgrounds will be available for park visitors.

The use of Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement Act funds will bring maintenance crews back to work to maintaining roads. Crews will reopen and maintain restrooms at Cades Cove campground, Smokemont Campground and the Deep Creek picnic area. Crews will also be dispatched to clear and reopen Litlle River Road between Metcalf Bottoms and the Townsend Wye. The Section of road has been closed for over two weeks due to reported downed trees and a rock slide. The restrooms at Newfound Gap and Cades Cove will remain open after emergency funds provided by Friends of the Smokies are depleted. The Great Smoky Mountain Association is also donating services to reopen the Cable Mill Visitor Center in Cades Cove. Thanks to a preexisting contract prior to the shutdown the dumpsters will continue to emptied. Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitors Centers will remain closed.

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Smoky Mountain Park Facilities Close With Government Shutdown

"Visitors are going to be on their own until the shutdown ends," Laurel Rematore, Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), CEO.

“Visitors are going to be on their own until the shutdown ends,” Laurel Rematore, Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), CEO.

Smoky Mountain Park Facilities Close With Government Shutdown.

Visitors are going to be on their own until the shutdown ends,” said Laurel Rematore, Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), CEO. “We are encouraging people visiting the park to prepare for a lack of public use facilities such as restrooms, trash pickup and visitor center staffing.

GSMA (a nonprofit partner of the Smokies) had been providing short term funding to the park which ended January 1st. The association provided a $51,000.00 donation which kept 15 rangers on the job and the Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, and Cades Cove visitors centers open through the holidays.

"Sorry folks park facilities are closed!" National Lampoon's Vacation.

“Sorry folks park facilities are closed!” National Lampoon’s Vacation.

One park visitor told HeySmokies, “It feels like that moment in the Chevy Chase comedy favorite “Vacation” where the  entire family has driven across county in the family truckster to Wally World only to find the park closed. This time it is no joke though.”

 

 

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