Kelly Alley

It’s a bone-chilling 37 degrees and foggy in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The sun is just peeking over the eastern horizon, right now just as cold as the land it’s about to shine on.

Clad in a flannel lined jacket, flannel shirt, stiff khakis, wool felt hat and leather hunting boots, an intrepid explorer sets off. Armed with nothing but a camera and a stick of gum, they begin a two-hour trek into the wilderness.

Not so long after setting out on their journey, the explorer comes across a small town. Paint is slowly chipping off the sides of the buildings. Porches are rotting and falling down. Not a soul, save for the explorer, can be seen.

A chill runs down the explorer’s spine, but not from the early morning weather. This, the explorer realizes, is an abandoned village … a ghost town.

Alright, so maybe that’s a little dramatized compared to what actually happened that morning, but it sure sounds nice and spooky for the season. Besides, there is a sort of ghost town in the Smokies: Elkmont.

Elkmont, or Little River if you happen to time-travel, started as a few small farms in the late 1800s, growing into a lumber camp operated by the Little River Lumber Company in the early 1900s. Eventually the Great Smoky Mountains became a national park around 1934, bringing an end to the lumber company.

Being in mountainous terrain—and near a river—many accidents, some fatal, happened during this logging era. Trains, like one in 1909, would derail on downhill grades, killing engineers and brakemen.

On a slightly cheery note, there’s also the “Appalachian Club” that called Elkmont home. This was a neat little resort-like community that started around 1910. Cabins and the like were rented out to tourists and members of this club. Folks would come to fish, hike or relax in this mountain wilderness utopia.

There are still a handful of these cabins still standing, and the Appalachian Club structure can still be rented out through the park service for events. Some of the cabins are even being restored right now.

Although it’s neat to go out there and see the old cabins, it is a bit sad. They lie empty and cold, with exterior paint chipping and flaking away and “No Trespassing” signs posted on many of them.

If I had more courage, and if the park service would allow it, I would have visited the little town at night, just to see what sort of spooks and spirits wander around. As it is, I’m a chicken and a cold one at that. One good misplaced bump in the night and I’d have been at the campground ranger station in no time flat.

Even if you’re not one for spooky season adventures, Elkmont still offers quite a bit. Boasting a campground with over a hundred spots, hiking, fantastic wildlife spotting, fishing and easy access to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy. Even if it’s just a quiet evening beside a campfire.

Kelly Alley is a senior studying journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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