Cullasaja River Gorge Cleanup | Franklin & Highlands NC

group of 20 volunteers from Franklin NC
On Saturday, April 13th a group of 50 volunteers comprised of a diverse group of citizens from the Franklin & Highlands area joined forces to cleanup the beautiful Cullasaja River Gorge’s roadside and riverbank.
This initiative is one of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing annual projects to help keep our natural assets clean. This takes place every spring during the NCDOT’s clean sweep week.

This year, Venture Local Franklin members, Franklin Chamber of Commerce staff/board members,  Stay And Play In The Smokies, and other dedicated citizens of Franklin joined in to make an even bigger impact on this stretch of the gorgeous”Mountain Waters Scenic Byway“. Twenty volunteers were representing Franklin.

“Franklin & Highlands market this same stretch of scenic highway for tourism and recreation purposes, and its very important for both communities to keep the roadsides of Highway 64 as beautiful as the natural assets that surround them. So we decided to reach out to Jennifer Smathers at the Highlands Chamber Visitor Center to join forces.” – Matt Bateman, Venture Local Franklin/Stay And Play In The Smokies.

“One of VLF’s goals is to continue to reach out to other groups and entities within Franklin and beyond, so we can work together on moving Franklin forward in a positive direction” – Matt Bateman
The combined effort bagged litter from just above Cullasaja Falls, all the way up to the town limits of Highlands.  Over 100 bags were filled by volunteers and hauled away by the U.S. Forest Service.

Main Street Coffee & Tea in downtown Franklin donated coffee for the volunteers of Franklin, while Bill & Sharon Van Horn donated bagels from Dills Creek Bagel Co. also of Franklin.

2013 Spring Weekend Adventure in Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Smokemont Campground


As you ride along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) this spring you’ll see, “No access beyond this point”.  Before you start to say “What have we done?”, or, “there is nothing to do, lets turn around!”, we would like to introduce you to the ‘last stop’ along the NC side of 441 this spring, Smokemont Campground.  Note:  The recent Smokies landslide repairs will be completed May ’13 (for more info on the recent landslide, see ‘Bryson City’ pg. 28).

smoky mountains landslide on U.S. highway 441 in north carolina

The 200 foot wide landslide in the Smokies happened January 16, 2013 and is set to be repaired by May ’13.  Don’t let this hinder your visit to the NC Smoky Mountains.  We are STILL open for business!

Smokemont is an outdoor lover’s dream.  If front country camping in an RV or tent is your thing this is the spot.  Maybe you’re looking for easy accessible back country camping.  If so, GSMNP back country campsite number 50 is only a short hike away.  So as you can see, we’re already off to a great start.

backcountry campsite post signifies #50 in great smoky mountains national park

You’ll see this post at the entrance to backcountry campsite #50 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Access this campsite via Smokemont, Bradley Fork Trail & Chasteen Cr. Trail.

One of the things we love most about the Smokemont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the water.  The Oconaluftee River and Bradley Fork converge within the campground area, creating an oasis for trout fishing, swimming & more.  After setting up camp, check out the awesome hiking possibilities Smokemont has to offer.  Just another reason to plan a trip to Smokemont.  Head out along ‘Bradley Fork Trail‘ as it follows ‘Bradley Fork’ for just over 1 mile. For even more water fun, take the ‘Chasteen Creek Trail‘ for 0.4 mile up to ‘Chasteen Creek Cascades’.  Find the great little spot at the base of the cascades to sit, relax and enjoy the Smoky Mountains at their best.

whitewater cascades tumble in a green smoky mountain forest

Chasteen Creek Cascades tumble down and over the rock formations for about 50 feet. A peaceful location only 1.6 miles from Smokemont Campground.

Recommended Nearby

While you’re in the Smokemont area you’ll want to venture out and explore a little further.  We’re almost sure of it.  So, below we have listed a few recommendations for you to consider while here.  For more details, pictures & directions visit our website,  (Hint: to search for one of these areas, remember our ‘custom search’ box on the top right corner of any web page)

Oconaluftee Visitors Center & Mountain Farm Museum

Located near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park via Cherokee NC.  This state-of-the-art center & historic property is an excellent resource for Smoky Mountain History.  Plan at least a half hour here.

Blue Ridge Parkway MP 469 to Waterrock Knob

Located near the entrance to GSMNP is the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, ‘America’s Favorite Drive’.  We suggest hoping on here and driving up to ‘Waterrock Knob’ for a hike, long-range views, and a mile high picnic.

Mingo Falls

– Located outside of GSMNP, but just a short, scenic drive away you’ll find the near 200 foot, Mingo Falls.  Take Big Cove Road (near the GSNMP entrance) for 5 miles until you reach the parking area.  Get your heart pumping with a 160 stair hike to the falls.


National Park Service & Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians partner on Smokies landslide construction incentives

You may already be aware of the recent landslide that occurred via U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on January 16, 2013.  If not, the landslide happened near mile marker 22 between Collins Creek and Webb Overlook, on the NC side of the Park, sometime around 9:30 that morning.  The landslide is a 200 foot section of this heavily traveled highway, between Gatlinburg, TN & Cherokee, NC, that extends a near 1,000 feet down the slope near Beech Flats Prong.

Here is what the landslide in the Smokies looks like ->

landslide in great smoky mountains national park

A great picture of the 200 foot long/50 feet deep landslide that occurred on the NC side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in January 2013. Photo Credit:  Great Smoky Mountains Association

Initial reports from the National Park Service stated that an estimated completion of the repairs would be around May or June.  However, breaking news on February 8th suggests that the completion date could be guaranteed sooner than originally expected.  According to the National Park Service (NPS) Public Affairs Office, the NPS and EBCI (Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians) have partnered to launch an early completion incentive proposal with the contractor.  $18,000 will be awarded for each day the project is completed prior to May 15, 2013, up to a maximum of $500,000.  The NPS and EBCI have both agreed to potentially $250,000 each.

But, along with what seems to be lucrative monetary incentives also includes monetary disincentives.  For each day after May 15, 2013 that the project is prolonged, $18,000 will be charged to the contractor.  This will help insure the project is completed as planned.

Groundhog Day Snowfall | Franklin & Highlands NC

Franklin NC – Groundhog Day 2013 brought snowfall to the western NC area… A couple of inches and still falling as I type this from a booth at MiCasa Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Franklin NC (ha). Although Punxsutawney Phil called for an eay spring this morning, we’re hoping for MUCH more snow! What about you?




Breweries and Micro Brews in Western North Carolina

Breweries in Western North Carolina seem to keep popping up.
With 19 breweries & pub breweries in North Carolina’s western region, WNC is becoming quite the destination for beer connoisseurs of all kinds. If you’re interested in finding more info on area breweries, check out ‘NC Brewers Guild‘.

With the majority of breweries & pub breweries in Western North Carolina found in Asheville, NC (a total of 9), the city of approximately 80k has been dubbed by many, ‘Beer City USA‘. Internet voters weren’t the only ones willing to make Asheville, Beer City USA. Just this year, two HUGE announcements from micro brew giants, Sierra Nevada & New Belgium breweries, were made to locate their East coast distribution centers in the Asheville area. This major news may have solidified the title for years to come.

Although Asheville has it going on, the local beer scene West of Asheville is showing some promise as of late. Be sure to check them out when in the area!
Waynesville, NC:
Frog Level Brewing Company, Waynesville, NC
Headwaters Brewing Company, Waynesville, NC
Tipping Point Tavern, Waynesville, NC

Sylva, NC:
Heinzelmannchen Brewery, Sylva, NC

Bryson City, NC:
Nantahala Brewing Company, Bryson City, NC

So, now that you know about local brew in WNC, who will open the very first brewery in Franklin NC, Highlands NC or Cashiers NC??

Local weather ALERT – Heat wave for Great Smoky Mountains & Southern Appalachias

A local weather alert has been advised for this weekend (June 29- July 1) in the Great Smoky Mountains and Southern Appalachias/Western North Carolina mountains, by the Weather Channel.
A high pressure system enters the region pushing temperatures into the upper 90’s over the next several days.

A local weather alert for a heat wave for the Knoxville, Tn area and Western North Carolina mountians

A few things….

We certainly recommend staying out of the hottest part of the day, usually in the afternoon hours of 1 – 4 pm.  This will greatly lower your risk of overheating, especially during outdoor activities.

We know it’s tempting to get outside when the weather is nice, especially when you’re surrounded by ultimately the best outdoor playground in, well, all of North Carolina… that is of course in our humble opinion : )  So, weather you’re headed out on the hiking trails of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, doing a float trip on the Nantahala River or shopping in downtown Dillsboro, be sure to pack plenty of water for the day!

We would also recommend this ‘Heat Safety & Preparedness’ list, in order to limit your risk while out and about this weekend, and this summer season.