mill along roaring fork
April 19, 2024

Long before they became the centerpiece of the most visited national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains were home to a thriving settlement. Today, visitors can see remnants of it in the form of historical buildings. While the structures are all throughout the park, a notable place to see some of them is on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Go for a great scenic drive on this 5.5-mile loop. Take a moment to learn more about it before your visit. Here is a list of 3 historical structures you’ll see along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail:

1. Jim Bales Place and the Alex Cole Cabin

Jim Bales was born in 1869 and lived out most of his life in Roaring Fork. He built a cabin where he lived with his wife. He made a living as a farmer, and visitors can see his corn crib and barn. The cabin that sits in the area today is the Alex Cole Cabin. This is a one-story cabin that was moved from the Sugarlands area of the national park. The walls were built with a combination of hewn logs and dovetail notching. Hikers can walk up the steps to take a look inside the cabin!

2. Ephraim Bales Cabin

bales cabin roaring fork motor nature trail

Ephraim Bales is the older brother of James Bales. He also built a cabin along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This structure is unique because it is actually two cabins connected together by a common roof. The larger cabin was the living area, while the other was the kitchen. Ephraim and his wife, along with their 9 children lived in this cabin. Like his brother, Ephraim Bales also made his living by farming. They owned 70 acres of land that had a lot of rocks. The land had a small farm as well that housed a horse and a mule. Visitors can still see a corn crib right beside the cabin.

3. Alfred Regan Place and Gristmill

The Alfred Regan Place was constructed in the 1800’s. Its namesake and builder was well-liked in the Roaring Fork settlement. This is because Regan operated a blacksmith shop that served farmers and loggers in the area, along with his work as a preacher and carpenter. Another part of his legacy is building a gristmill. It had a flume that redirected water to power a tub-wheel turbine. This power turned a grindstone, which would break down wheat and corn to make flour and cornmeal. Farmers could use the finished product to feed their own families or sell it to other settlers. The machine was well-positioned and very effective. Today, visitors can still see the tubmill by the creek. They can also walk inside the rustic cabin. The outside looks very inviting, with two turquoise and yellow doors. It is currently the only cabin on the Roaring Fork Nature Trail that has been painted!

We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the historical structures along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Want to learn even more about this scenic drive? If so, read more about what to expect along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail!