Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Things are opening up!

Showy orchis - Kephart Prong Trail

It was a momentous weekend in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove opened up this past weekend and so did I-40. Visitors should have been happy and satisfied. But still there are those that came in with,

“Everything is closed. What can we do around here?”

“Well,”, I point out, “there are over 800 miles of trail and you can get to all of them, somehow.” But what to do from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, if you’ve come without any ideas:

  1. Mountain Farm Museum with its old buildings and animals
  2. Oconaluftee River Trail. It’s flat and well-maintained. Local mothers from Cherokee take their babies in a stroller down this trail.
  3. Mingus Mill, a working mill with a miller that will explain how it all works.
  4. Mingo Falls, on Big Cove Road.


Shall I continue? There’s plenty of stuff to do, right around OVC. You don’t have to go to Cades Cove, even if it is open.


Kephart Prong - CCC camp sign

It was raining when I started out for Kephart Prong Trail but I wanted to see it again, since I’m hoping to do a program on the trail.

I handed in a draft proposal to lead a hike to the shelter. It’s amazing how much more I saw of the Civilian Conservation Corps remains, now that I’ll be guiding people on the trail.


Kephart Prong - CCC water fountain

Most people note the stone sign board since it’s right on the trail. But what about the water fountain, to the left?

Imagine – these guys had a water fountain that probably worked all the time. Try to find a water fountain now.

Walking further up the trail, on the left, was a large square stone structure which I assume was their water tank. Yes, even back then, they had to treat the water. Kephart Prong - CCC water supply

 If anyone knows what this is, in a more definite manner, I’d appreciate hearing from you. I need to go to the Smokies library to check it out for sure.

I also made a flower list. The newest ones were the showy orchis, shown at the top of this post – only a few of them.

Since it was raining, there were no visitors on the trail when I started out. But as soon as it stopped, people started popping up, like ephemerals. I talked to five people.

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