Cataloochee Valley in July
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in July is a peaceful place. At its northeast edge is a valley famous for the wild Elk herd that was reintroduced into the park fifteen years ago. Cataloochee Valley was the most populated part of the mountains that would become the National Park in the 1930’s. All of the families were relocated, leaving behind farm houses, historic barns, churches, and school houses, which are open today for tours. The only way into the valley is by an unpaved road that hugs the high ridges and cuts through ancient forest for miles, finally arriving at Lookout Point, a park overlook that affords a wide view of the surrounding mountains from west to north. The panorama below captures the view of the entire valley.
Looking toward the northwest, below, the high ridge that divides North Carolina and Tennessee runs from the northeast to the southwest.
Below is an image made from almost the same spot by another photographer after sunset. Amazing how different the same view can be at different times of the day and year.
A well worn walk bridge over Rough Fork Creek is a fitting reminder of the people who used to call this valley home. Just downstream, Rough Fork joins with another creek to become Cataloochee Creek. In the background is one of the large meadows where Elk graze in the early morning and late evening. With a hot noontime sun overhead, they were nowhere to be found. That will be another visit. A family of Wild Turkeys, with fifteen chicks, was casually foraging along the road in their place.
Driving back out of the valley, the mountain to the north was impressive in its size. All of these ridges tower over 5,000 feet, compared to the mountains around my own Otter Creek Valley, which barely reach 3,000 feet.