Vintage Poirpose Island Attraction, Pigeon Forge, TN.
Remember When, Lost Smoky Mountain Attractions – Porpoise Island. Pigeon Forge, TN is widely known as a national vacation destination offering something for everyone from theaters and attractions to amusements parks and shopping with world-renowned views of the Smokies in the background. There have been some very memorable attractions come and go over the years. This is one of them in our series Remember When, Lost Smoky Mountain Attractions.
“The porpoises are calling you!”
But did you think they would be calling from the Great Smoky Mountains?
Most people didn’t. Opening in the summer of 1972, a new Polynesian – style
Porpoise Island duck slide in Pigeon Forge, TN.
attraction called Porpoise Island stuck a toe in the ever-expanding pool of growing tourism choices in Pigeon Forge, TN. It was certainly a novel idea – mixing the tropical feeling of the Hawaiian Islands with the earthy down home goodness of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. No one really knew if it would work although one of the principle investors did have similar attractions in Hawaii itself, Bermuda, England and other locations. However, tourism in the Smokies isn’t always like tourism in other places. A last-century investment of $500,000 was a pretty substantial one equaling over $3,000,000 in today’s dollars. Sea-swimming creatures and Polynesian grass-skirt style in the Great Smoky Mountains did offer an interesting contrast to be sure.
The 20-acre attraction was located at the north end of Pigeon Forge (on highway 441) on what is now called “The Island.” It is so-named because it is a natural land section in the middle of the Little Pigeon River which runs parallel to the Pigeon Forge parkway. It’s not the Pacific but it can get pretty cranky after spring rains.
Porpoise Island Polynesian hula dancers in Pigeon Forge.
Porpoise Island included hula dancers in grass skirts (of course!), laurel head wreaths, a sea lion show, a bird show called the “Island Whiz Kids,” a deer ranch and live Hawaiian stage show but the main stars were of course the porpoises. Overall, there were 20 different performances a day. The porpoises performed in a 100’ x 36’ salt water facility. Guests were also allowed to pet the porpoises. Visitors were greeted at the main building with a warm hula dance comprised of male and female dancers in traditional Polynesian wear and with instruments. Hawaiian culture is known for their friendliness and hospitality so maybe Porpoise Island was a perfect fit to the cordial nature of the Smokies and its people.