Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the main access roads into Cades Cove and Cataloochee will be closed for several months this winter for road construction projects.
The main access road into Cataloochee, Cove Creek Road, is expected to be closed from November 1 through February 29 for roadwork while the North Carolina Department of Transportation repairs a slide just outside the park along the county road. This full road closure will prevent access into Cataloochee from this main access point. The Cataloochee area will remain accessible along old Highway 284 which is a narrow, winding gravel road leading from the Big Creek area of the park into Cataloochee Valley. Weather depending, this road may be closed at any time due to snow, ice, or downed trees. This route is not recommended for low clearance vehicles or trailers. The Cataloochee Campground is expected to reopen for the 2020 season by March 26.
Laurel Creek Road, the seven-mile access road leading from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove will be closed to all motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians from January 3 through February 29 to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel. The full closure, beginning just past Tremont Road, is necessary to allow equipment set-up for the repair of the internal drainage system in the walls and ceiling of the 121-foot long tunnel. Crews will enclose and heat the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is lower. Intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave the tunnel area.
The Cades Cove Campground, normally open during the winter months, will be closed December 30, 2019 through March 5. To accommodate winter campers, Elkmont Campground will remain open year round along with Smokemont Campground in NC.
The Bote Mountain Tunnel, constructed in 1948, has not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel will also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months.