In Bryson City, NC there is a 6 mile stretch of scenic road that dead-ends into the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area is what the locals refer to as the “The Road to Nowhere”. Originally named Lakeview Drive due to the spectacular views of Fontana Lake, it was supposed to be a road providing residents access to their ancestral grave sites. It was a promise left unfulfilled by the government when the residents were forced to leave their homes and land in order for Fontana Dam to be built and it now serves as an eerie reminder of the empty promise and the destruction of the residents homes and land now left under the water, never to be seen again.
The history of the Road to Nowhere has been the source of many speculations and ghost stories to the area. In the midst of World War II, while many of the local men were fighting for our country, the US Government and the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to build a hydroelectric power dam which would flood 11,000 acres of North Carolina land. The TVA bought or took approximately 67,800 acres of land and left 1,300 families homeless, some of which were widows with children. These people received no relocation assistance from the TVA or the government and the ones who refused to sell had their land condemned and taken out from under them. To appease the people, the Government promised two things: First, to reimburse Swain County for Highway 288 which would be flooded when the lake was filled and second to build a road to give access to the 28 cemeteries left behind. In 1943, the Government did pay the State of North Carolina, but Swain County did not actually see any of this money and to this day, the road remains unfinished.
Access to the Road to Nowhere is free and one of the most popular sites along the road is the tunnel at the end of it. The tunnel is not accessible by vehicle, leaving visitors with only the option of walking through the abandoned tunnel. As you wander through the darkness, you fixate on the light at the end and are welcomed by the Smoky Mountain National Park as the road itself comes to an abrupt end. It’s sure to leave a lasting impression as a part of the darker history of the mountains of western North Carolina.
8899 New Fontana Rd
Bryson City, NC
The Road to No Where