cable mill in Cades Cove
March 13, 2023

The Cades Cove Loop Road is home to several fascinating historical structures for visitors to enjoy, including an operating grist mill that dates back to the late 1800s! The Cable Mill is conveniently situated about halfway along the loop road and sits adjacent to the Cades Cove Visitor Center, making it an easy stop for anyone exploring this spectacular area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Here are 3 interesting things to know about the Cable Mill in Cades Cove:

1. Construction of the Cable Mill

The Cable Mill in Cades Cove was constructed in 1867 by John P. Cable. He was a descendant of Peter Cable, who had arrived in the area in the 1820s and designed an elaborate system to drain the swamp lands located in the western part of the cove. The mechanics of the 11-foot tall water wheel were well designed and simple, as the turning wheel drives a runner stone that also turns. There is a tiny gap between the runner stone and the stationary stone below, so the corn or grain is fed into this area from a gravity-fed hopper to achieve the desired fineness of the cut. The stones on the Cable Mill are the original stones and have been in use for 150 years!

2. Dual Purpose of the Mill

John P. Cable Mill in the Smoky Mountains

The John P. Cable Mill provided homesteads with a place to turn corn or wheat into flour for making bread. While farmers could do this themselves in the past, grist mills could complete the process at a much faster rate and became vital to the local economy. As a result, the Cable Mill also became a social gathering place and fostered many friendships and business relationships! The mill took double advantage of its water wheel to power saw mills as well. This revolutionized the way homes were constructed in Cades Cove, as residents changed from using logs to lumber and frame construction.

3. Visitor Information

The Cable Mill operates from 9 AM to 5 PM daily from March 5 to October 31, as well as on Fridays through Sundays in November. While stopping to see the grist mill, be sure to walk next door to experience the Cades Cove Visitor Center. This is a unique opportunity to learn about Southern Mountain life and culture, talk to some of the friendly park staff, and browse through the wonderful bookstore. As an alternative to driving along the Cades Cove Loop Road, consider visiting during one of the vehicle-free days from early May to late September!

Other Grist Mills in the Smokies

Reagan Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you’re intrigued by the Cable Mill, you’ll also find several other grist mills in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park including Ogle Mill and Reagan Mill! The grandest example is the Mingus Mill, which is situated just a half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. This mill was built in 1886 and uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. While in the Smokies, head up to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge to see a beautiful grist mill that has been in operation since 1830!

Now that you know some of the interesting history of the Cable Mill in Cades Cove, discover some of the other stops you have to make while exploring Cades Cove Loop Road!