A 6,800-acre valley surrounded by high mountains, Cades Cove has more historic buildings than any other area in the park. Driving, hiking, or biking the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road, you can see three old churches (Methodist, Primitive Baptist, and Missionary Baptist), a working gristmill (Cable Mill), a number of log cabins and houses in a variety of styles, and many outbuildings, including cantilevered barns, which used balanced beams to support large overhangs. The Cherokee name for this valley is Tsiyahi, place of otters, but today you're more likely to see bears, deer, and wild turkeys. For hundreds of years Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove, but there is no evidence of major settlements. Under the terms of the Calhoun Treaty of 1819, the Cherokee forfeited their rights to Cades Cove, and the first white settlers came in the early 1820s. By the middle of the 19th century, well over 100 families lived in the cove, growing corn, wheat, oats, cane, and vegetables. For a while,
when government-licensed distilleries were allowed in Tennessee, corn whiskey was the major product of the valley, and even after Tennessee went dry in 1876, illegal moonshine was still produced. After the establishment of the park in the 1930s, many of the nearly 200 buildings were torn down to allow the land to revert to its natural state. More recently, however, the bottomlands in the cove have been maintained as open fields, and the remaining farmsteads and other structures have been restored to depict life in Cades Cove as it was from around 1825 to 1900. The NPS mows areas near the road for wildlife viewing. Keep in mind: the Loop Road gets 2 million visitors per year; at peak times traffic in and out of here can be extremely slow.