More Than a Talking Heads Song
In my opinion, one of the best songs by Talking Heads is "Road to Nowhere," from their 1985 album Little Creatures. This is not about that song, however. This is about the real "road to nowhere," a beautiful destination in the southeastern portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region of North Carolina.
Talking Heads' Road to Nowhere
The History of the Road to Nowhere
The "Road to Nowhere" is the nickname for Lakeview Drive, a street that runs from Bryson City, North Carolina to....nowhere. In the 1930's, when the federal government acquired the land to make the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, part of their plan included building Fontana Dam. The federal highway that went through Bryson City was to meet a watery grave (beneath the new man-made lake resulting from the dam construction), but the feds promised to build a new road that would allow the people losing their property to the project the ability to reach "the old homesteads" and other things, most significantly, family and community cemeteries.
Near the start of the Road to Nowhere there's a sign that mentions the government's "broken promises, 1943-?" regarding construction of the road. It was never finished, and it never will be, given that residents (more specifically, the descendents of residents from 70 years earlier) were paid off for the non-construction in 2010. It reminds me of that line in the film Billy Jack: "As far as I can tell, Washington entered into 3,500 treaties with the Indians to date, and they've broken about 3,499 of 'em."
So much for the political side of the Road to Nowhere.
As far as a drive goes, it's stunning. The drive (clearly marked in Bryson City) takes you on a lovely trip with amazing scenery. The most breathtaking site is Fontana Lake.
The drive ends in a heavily wooded area with a parking lot. The road is barricaded at the point of the parking lot. The actual "road" continues about for about a third of a mile, through a tunnel and approximately 100 yards on the other side of the tunnel, but that must be walked or biked.
A Well-Kept Secret
The most "touristy" areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are on the Tennessee side, thanks to the heavy concentration of hotels and attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Bryson City is a well-kept secret, but it offers plenty of natural wonders and outdoor activities. Hiking is plentiful in the southeastern corner of the Smokies, along with a scenic train ride and whitewater rafting. The thing I enjoyed the most was the drive on the "Road to Nowhere," which provided lovely views...even if the road does lead nowhere.