Located in Byrson City, North Carolina about six miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park there is a beautiful scenic drive that leads to nowhere, but a tunnel. You can GPS the location just by inputting “The road to Nowhere” and it’ll take you straight to the place. Understandably, it doesn’t sound impressive at all; however, besides the beautiful views it’s a place filled with history.
Around the 1930’s to 1940’s most of the land in Swain County were given to the federal government to create Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes to create both the lake and national park. Fontana lake is a reservoir for the Fontana Dam that was built during WWII to produce electricity for aluminum plants in Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Manhattan Project. The road that lead to the old communities, Old HWY 288, is buried beneath Fontana Lake.
Two covenants were made by the Federal government. One, reimbursing Swain County, and, two, to replace Old HWY 288 that would continue along the north shore of the lake and to specially to provide access to family cemeteries. The Government claim to have made the reimbursement, a total of $400,000; however, Swain County claimed they did received any of the money. Lakeview Drive, the new road, was initially built to only result in being stopped due to environment issues, beginning with an unforeseen landslide. Ultimately, the construction stopped with the tunnel’s creation. Thus, the following decades would question whether the road should be continued or not. Finally, in February 2010 a settlement was made by the US Department of Interior by agreeing to pay Swain County a total of $52 million.
Using a GPS will take to “The Road of Nowhere” by driving on Lakeview Drive. However, if you or someone in the car is attentive, likes to read signs, or keep an eye out for sceneries, at some point there is a sign that says, “The Road to Nowhere—a broken promise.” There is available parking and it is a short walk to the tunnel, if you plan to walk through the tunnel you can bring a flashlight. There are some artworks inside the tunnel, but it isn’t all the impressive. Once you reached the end of the tunnel there are a few trails that you can take if you wished to do so. There is an overlook providing a beautiful scene of Lake Fontana, so be sure to make a quick stop for a nice stretch. Also, be on the outlook for horseback riders.