Have you ever heard of Fontana lake? Located deep within Bryson City, NC, the locals know it all to well. Many of their homes and the homes of their ancestors have been demolished, and Old Highway 288, the road leading to those homes, as well as their old family cemeteries, is buried deep beneath the waters of that lake.
Back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Swain County (which is where you will find Bryson City) sold that land to the Federal Government for the creation of Fontana Lake, a reservoir for Fontana Dam which was built as a TVA project during WWII. Old Highway 288 was buried beneath the waters of Fontana Lake but the Federal Government promised to replace it with a new road, Lakeview Drive. The new road was supposed to stretch from Bryson City to Fontana and provide access to the cemeteries where generations of ancestors of these displaced residents remained.
Construction of the road stopped when it fell victim to an environmental issue and although the issue was resolved, the construction of the road was never resumed. Today, to the residents of Bryson City, the road is known as “The Road to Nowhere…A Broken Promise”.
We went in search of Lakeview Drive and it was not easy to find, of course our GPS wouldn’t register Lakeview Drive. You have to access the Road to Nowhere via Fontana Road. Once you reach The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fontana Road turns into Lakeview Drive. The Road to Nowhere is located completely within The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once you enter the park, there is a 6 mile, exceedingly curvy road leading to a tunnel which is where the paved road stops. Though it is a long and eerie drive, it is absolutely beautiful and filled with stunning views of Fontana Lake.
The tunnel on the other hand is a different story. The road actually stops shortly before the tunnel so you have to walk through it. No big deal, right? Actually, the tunnel is very very dark; you literally cannot see anything without a flashlight so make sure to take one with you if you ever go. it is also way creepier without a flashlight. Though the tunnel is only 1/4 mile long, it seems much longer while walking through it. As I mentioned earlier, the road is not paved so you are essentially walking through a bunch of wet mud which is another reason for a flashlight. The walls of the tunnel are filled with graffiti. Some of it is really cool and some of it is really chilling…definitely not fun to read while walking through a dark tunnel. And there are a lot of F words up there so not the best reading activity for kids.
I know, I know. After reading this you are probably thinking this is not somewhere you want to go but you really should give it a chance. The scenery on the way to the tunnel is absolutely gorgeous and when you get to the other side, you are completely immersed in nature. There is nothing but wildlife and hiking trails that go even deeper into the mountains.
P.S. Don’t forget bug spray!