Mingus Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
August 25, 2023

There are a lot of interesting historical structures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mingus Mill is a historic grist mill that you can visit inside the national park. When you visit Mingus Mill, you can learn a lot about the history of the area and how early settlers used to live. Here’s everything you need to know about Mingus Mill and how you can see this amazing structure for yourself.

1. Where to Find Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill is located on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can find this historic mill just four miles north of Cherokee and just over half a mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Mingus Mill has its own parking lot, and it’s only a short walk from your car to the mill.

2. History of Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill millrace

Mingus Mill was built in 1886 on the Mingus family’s property. The mill was constructed primarily using wood from tulip trees. Mingus Mill was the largest grist mill in the Smoky Mountains. While most mills at the time used wooden wheels, Mingus Mill used a steel turbine to power its mill stones. This is part of the reason why Mingus Mill became so successful. At its peak, the mill served more than 200 local families. Local residents would bring their grains to the mill on Saturdays for the miller to grind. While they waited, the residents would chat with friends and family as well as trade their goods with one another. This made Mingus Mill a center of the community for both socializing and commerce. The mill remained in the family from its construction in 1886 until they sold it to the national park in 1930.

3. How the Mill Works

Like most grist mills, Mingus Mill uses water to power its turbine. Water from Mingus Creek flows into the flume called a millrace. As the water flows downhill through the millrace channel, it picks up speed. It’s also filtered along the way so that no twigs, leaves, or grit will reach the turbine. At the end of the millrace is a 22-foot drop. This drop pours the water into a reservoir, or the penstock. The water then flows into the mechanisms of the turbine to turn the blades. The blades of the turbine then turn the giant millstones in the mill house. The turning of the millstones grinds the grain down into cornmeal, flour, etc.

4. Visiting Mingus Mill Today

millstones at Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill has become one of the most popular historic sites in the Smoky Mountains. When you visit Mingus Mill, you get to see water flowing through the millrace outside and the workings of the mill on the inside. Some days you can even watch the milling process in action. Demonstrations are given by an on-duty miller who can answer your questions and provide information on the history of Mingus Mill. You will also have the chance to purchase Mingus Mill cornmeal and other local products! The mill is staffed from April through October as well as weekends in November. If you visit during the winter, you won’t be able to go inside the mill, but you’ll still be able to walk the paths and see the exterior structures.

5. Hiking the Mingus Creek Trail

If you want to explore more of the area surrounding Mingus Mill, you can hike the Mingus Creek Trail. You can find the trailhead at the far end of the Mingus Mill parking lot. This out-and-back trail is 5.9 miles roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 1,515 feet, making it a moderately difficult hike. Most of the trail follows along Mingus Creek. You’ll get to see the point where Mingus Mill starts diverting water from the creek, first through a moss-covered sluice and then along the raised millrace. You’ll eventually pass over a couple footbridges and a few non-aided creek crossings. During the spring, you can see lots of wildflowers along the trail. In the winter, you’ll get to see mountain views when you reach the end of the trail.

Explore More Smoky Mountains History Nearby

Now that you know everything you need to know about Mingus Mill, it’s time to go explore! If you’re interested in seeing more Smoky Mountains history, make sure you also stop by the nearby Mountain Farm Museum. This open-air museum has historical buildings from the original settlers in what is now the national park, and it’s located just half a mile south of Mingus Mill! Start planning your trip today!