Tourism Thriving From Pigeon Forge To This East Tennessee Tourist Town
Where there was once flames, there are now feet.
Where there was once smoke, there is now stamping herds of tourists.
In November, the Great Smoky Mountains were covered in a blanket of not its famous smoky fog, but smoke from fires that whipped so quickly through the area and with such heat and fury that some people could not escape and ash was falling out of the the sky in Knoxville 40 miles away.
Lives were lost, houses were destroyed and businesses burned. Area native Dolly Parton raised millions through a telethon, and #SmokiesStrong became a popular hashtag as locals begged tourists to return and help rebuild the economy.
But by the end of December, the tourists towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were clogged with cars and people. It was so jam-packed during PubClub.com’s visit a few days after Christmas that traffic was bumper-to-bumper on the road from Pigeon Forge into Gatlinburg and there was barely a parking space in town.
The sidewalks were as packed as if one were in Las Vegas, restaurants for lunch had waiting lines for as much as an hour and you had to excuse yourself to get past people in the shops.
Even the fires themselves have become a tourist attraction. Just outside of Gatlinburg, along the bypass road, cars crawled along and drivers pulled over at overlooks to get up-close looks at the damage.
Clearly you could see where the fire rolled down the steep mountain, jumped the bypass road – this is where locals were stuck trying to get out of town with flames roaring all around them – and burned a steep hill leading into town.
The ground was charred and there was a smoky smell in the air, as if you were standing in a smokehouse.
The fire stopped just short of Gatlinburg itself and you can see just where from the outlook viewpoint.
In town, the charred Riverhouse Motor Lodge – across a stream just behind the town and a business that had been in Gatlinburg for decades – clearly demonstrated how devastating the fire was in some places and how close it came to sweeping through the town.
And now, that town is not just surviving, but thriving. Tourists filled both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and PubClub noticed license plates from nearly every state east of the Mississippi. Clearly, people were coming from all over the place to fill the attractions, shops, restaurants hotels at the foot of the Great Smokies.