Not covered with snow on this New Year’s Day, but still quite beautiful. I finally got my chance to retrace US441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was winter, and it was a holiday – but traffic was relatively light, and boy was it a great ride.
The very first post on this website was called “Edge of the Gorge,” and it included a trip on the northernmost section of old US441 in Georgia, from near the North Carolina state line down to Tallulah Falls. This time, I picked up 441 south of the gorge and wandered on down until 441 left my route to pass through Homer and Commerce and Athens and points beyond.
One of the spots I’m sure to get to is Newfound Gap, the point where US441 crossed the main ridge of the Smoky Mountains and the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. I visited there many times as a child, and my parents did the same long before I was born. For the most part, US441 in the park follows the old road, which followed the old Cherokee trail, coming out of Gatlinburg.
Prior to 1882, it was really, really hard to get to Tallulah Falls. After that, you could take a train, and if you did, you’d see quite a show — a 1,000-foot deep gorge with a series of six waterfalls over a one-mile span, the roar of the falls so loud you could barely hear yourself talk, and a constant mist rising from the depths. Georgia Power ruined that in 1912 when it built a dam over the Tallulah River, flooding half the gorge with one of a series of lakes and reducing the great river to a trickle.