spring in the Smoky Mountains
December 29, 2023

The Great Smoky Mountains are a beloved tourist attraction in both Tennessee and North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park, receiving more than 10 million visitors every year. People come from all over to hike, go camping, or take a scenic drive. Keep reading if you want to know more about this iconic landmark. We are going to answer the question, “Why Are The Smoky Mountains called the Smoky Mountains?”

Who Came Up With the Name?

Long before the Great Smoky Mountains became the centerpiece of a bustling national park, they were a place where people lived and worked. The Cherokee Indians were the first inhabitants of the Smokies. They split the land up into different villages. Each village had a council house where tribal meetings were held. People’s homes were made with woven vines and saplings plastered with mud. They survived off the land and spent their time farming, fishing, and hunting. The tribe gave their home a unique name. That is, “Shaconage” or “place of blue smoke.”

Why Are the Smoky Mountains Smoky?

clingmans dome

So, where did the Cherokee Indians come up with this name? It is not because of a fire. Rather, the origin of the name comes from the environment. The combination of the humidity and the altitude of the mountains causes low-bearing clouds to condense. The plants then become damp and give off oxygen. These conditions facilitate an organic chemical reaction. Volatile organic compounds or VOC’s are released as a result. The gases then mix with the fog in the air and turn it blue! This is why it looks like there is smoke in the air!

More About the History of the Smoky Mountains

The Cherokee Indians weren’t the only ones who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains. John Oliver and his wife came to the area in 1818 and the couple were some of the first residents of Cades Cove. They built two homes while living here. This first one is appropriately named the “John Oliver Cabin” and is still standing in Cades Cove today. It is the oldest human structure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can see it as they drive along Cades Cove Loop Road. Other historical structures along this route include the Primitive Baptist Church. Built in 1827, it was the first of 3 churches in the Cades Cove community. It had a very important role because it served both the religious and social needs of the people. Other interesting history in the Great Smoky Mountains is the story of the Elkmont Ghost Town. Elkmont was initially home to the Little River Lumber company in 1901. Over time, the area slowly transformed into a prosperous resort community. When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, the residents quickly vacated their homes and left behind numerous abandoned buildings. Park officials have worked to preserve many of the structures.

Now you know the answer to the question, “why are the Smoky Mountains called the Smoky Mountains? Feel inspired to see this iconic landmark in person? Start planning your visit by reading about the top 5 popular things to do in the Smoky Mountains!