Tourism in Cades Cove


By Alex McKeel

“National Parks are highly valued and culturally meaningful places for ecological process, historic   preservation, and public recreation.” Larry Dilsaver (2009)[1]

At the start of the 1920’s, communities around Cades Cove were prospering, and the people of Cades Cove hoped that they could change their community’s outlook by welcoming outsiders. John Oliver, who was the third great-grandson of Cades Cove pioneers and founders John and Laquita Oliver, created cabins and led hikes into the Smokey Mountains. Sadly, by 1937, John Oliver and the community of Cades Cove were forced off their lands by the National Park Service who took control of the community through eminent domain.[2]

One would think this would be the last time that tourists would know of the community of Cades Cove. However, the big question after National Park Service took over Cades Cove was what they would do with the land. Would they leave the land as it was when the community of Cades Cove left it? Or would they tear down the homes and bring it back to the state it was before the Oliver’s settled into the area in the early nineteenth century? Lucky the millions of people who visit Cades Cove every year, the National Park Service decided to keep a number of the historic structures within Cades Cove.

The National Park Service has been providing a number of different ways for people to enjoy the park from bicycle riding, horseback riding, hiking or just driving vehicles around the loop. However, another way of enjoying the visit to Cades Cove is camping overnight in one of the 159 camping sites found in Cades Cove campgrounds. [3]

In 1986, a study stated that “When people visit National Parks they are interested to see wildlife.”[4] If that is the case then nature lovers will be very happy to see the abundance of wildlife found in Cades Cove. Some of the examples of wildlife found are: deer, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, beavers, cottontail rabbits, minks, foxes, skunks, squirrels, wild boars, woodchucks, snakes, red wolves, and many species of birds.[5] There are also heritage tours that go through the park and one can choose a public or private tour. However, since these tours are not offered every day tourist should call ahead. [6]

Today, over two million people visit Cades Cove a year. The eleven-mile loop around Cades Cove illustrates time when life in our country was much simpler, and where neighbors helped one another.[7] The economic impact the Smokey Mountains brings to East Tennessee cannot be over looked. The national park creates over $806 million dollars in revenue to the area. Also, the National Park brings over 12,759 jobs to the local area.[8]

Visiting Cades Cove will conjure a number of emotions from amazing to tranquil. There is never a bad time to see this place. However, one needs to check the website for up-to-date information regarding the park. Even though that Cades Cove is open year around tourist need to check the National Park website information for updates on weather and road conditions.
            Sadly, with more and more tourist coming into the Smokey Mountains causes issues that 100 years ago people would not suspect. One of these is the area of carbon monoxide levels found in the park. However, due to the increase of automobile emissions, a significant number of scenic overlooks have been degraded over the years. In fact, in 1948 a study shows that visibility of the Southern Appalachians had diminished 40% in the winter, and by the summer months visibility is only 80%. It is not just the loss of the scenic views that have people concerned in the Smokies; however, acid rain has caused the ecosystem to be depleted. Because of these issues and many others, United States Congress created the Clean Air Act in 1970. Also, in 1992 the U.S. Interior Department that not allowed permits in five states allowing pollution within a 120-mile radius of the Smokey Mountains. In 1996, a survey was conducted by the Smokey Mountain National Park in which 74% of summer visitors stated “clean air lean air was extremely important” and that “84% stated scenic views were extremely important.” [9]  Even though some changes have implemented changes to occur in the park. However, sadly though as of 2002, the Smokey Mountain National Park ranks number one in most polluted National Parks in the country.[10]

Pollution is sadly not the only problem facing the Smokey Mountains. Another major issue is that of the bringing in of invasive species. This issue is causing not just damaging the ecosystem with plant life, but it is also causing issues with animal life.  Some of these invasive species that are found in the Smokey Mountains are balsam/hemlock woolly adelgids, Asian lady beetles, wild hogs, and rainbow trout. In addition, there are currently 380-species of non-native plants found in the Smokey Mountains. [11]

The last item that the influx of tourist, which is causing damage to not just Cades Cove, but the mountains are not found in any research. However, when people enter Cades Cove they will see the destruction of buildings and the scenic beauty of the mountains. This destruction is not found by paint. However, people have defaced many of the cabins by engraving their names or initials into the cabins and other buildings within the cove and even in trees.


[1] Lary M. Dilsaver. “Perspective on National Parks,” Geographic Review 99 (2009): 269-278

[2] Durwood Dunn. Cades Cove: (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press) 243

[3] Cades Cove Campground,  (Accessed April 7, 2018)

[4] R. Gerald Wright, A Review of The Relationships Between Visitors and Ungulates in National Parks,” Wildlife Society Bulletin 26 (1998): 471-476.  

[5] Wildlife in Cades Cove, “Windham Vacation Rentals” (Accessed April 7, 2018)

[6] Cades Cove Heritage Tours, (Accessed April 7, 2018)

[7] The National Park Service, “Great Smokey Mountains.” (Accessed April 6, 2018)

[8] Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $806 Million in Economic Benefit, “National Park Service” (Accessed April 7, 2018)

[9] Air Quality, “National Park Service” (Accessed April 27, 2018.)

[10] New York Times: Topps in Pollution: Great Smokey Mountains.: September 24, 2002  

[11] Non-Native Species.” National Park Service” (Accessed April 26, 2018)