The Story Behind The Road To Nowhere
In the 1930s and 1940s, Swain County gave up the majority of its private land to the Federal Government for the creation of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hundreds of people were forced to leave the small Smoky Mountain communities that had been their homes for generations. With the creation of the Park, their homes were gone, and so was the road to those communities. Old Highway 288 was buried beneath the deep waters of Fontana Lake.
The Federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road. Lakeview Drive was to have stretched along the north shore of Fontana Lake, from Bryson City to Fontana, 30 miles to the west. And, of special importance to those displaced residents, it was to have provided access to the old family cemeteries where generations of ancestors remained behind.
But Lakeview Drive fell victim to an environmental issue and construction was stopped, with the road ending at a tunnel, about six miles into the park. The environmental issue was eventually resolved, but the roadwork was never resumed. And Swain County's citizens gave the unfinished Lakeview Drive its popular, albeit unofficial name "The Road To Nowhere."
On weekends throughout the summer, the Park Service still ferries groups of Swain County residents across Fontana Lake to visit their old family cemetaries for Decoration Days and family reunions.
The legal issue of whether to build the road was finally reolved in February, 2010 when the US Department of Interior signed a settlement agreement paying Swain County $52 million in lieu of building the road. Congressman Heath Shuler, a Bryson City naitve, was the driving force in bringing the settlement to fruition.
Download pdf brochure with directions to the Road To Nowhere, hiking trails, Decoration Days and even more information.
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