The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elkmont was a former community in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It was named for the numerous elk which once inhabited the area. Now within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Elkmont is home to a ranger station and campground. In 1994, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wonderland Hotel collapsed in 1993. The fate of the resort cottages, which are scheduled for demolition, is currently being debated.
The vacant buildings were once part of the “Appalachian Club” vacation community. This community grew up adjacent to the former logging town of Elkmont when the Little River Lumber Company sold land to individuals to create a private social club.
What began as a “Gentlemen’s Hunting Club” soon developed as a place for affluent Knoxville families to escape oppressive urban summers. The present day campground exists where the original town of Elkmont was located.
Why are these builings here and why are they empty? When the states of Tennessee and North Carolina were acquiring property for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1920’s and 30’s, most farms and homes of the mountain people were purchased out-right and residents were required to vacate upon transfer of property.
Club town residents were able to negotiate lesser payments in exchange for lifetime leases on these properties. Leases for all but two expired in 1992 with the last two ending in 2001.
What will happen here in the future? The parks 1982 General Management Plan calls for all structures to be removed upon expiration of leases and the area to be returned to a natural state. In 1994, Elkmont was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, affording the district special status.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently conducting an Enviromental Impact Statement to determine the future management of this district. All buildings in Elkmont are closed to the public. Do not enter or tamper with any structure. These regulations wil be strictly enforced and violators are subject to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Every year at Elkmont, a natural phenomenon occurs that baffles scientists to this day. Fireflies, known by their catchers all over the world as very unintelligent, have learned to light up in unison. The light travels in waves through the forest, and not one firefly will light up at the wrong time. This event only happens in two places on Earth, the other somewhere in Southeast Asia. The synchronous fireflies at Elkmont start around June 8 and last for two weeks.
To get to Elkmont go to the Sugar Lands Visitors Center on 441 and turn right, then go about 4.5 miles and you will see signs for the Elkmont campground on your left.