East Tennessee is a name given to the eastern third of the state of Tennessee comprised of densely forested 6,000-foot mountains to broad river valleys. The region is both geographically and culturally part of Appalachia and is home to the nation's most visited national park— the Great Smoky Mountains National Park— and hundreds of smaller recreational areas. East Tennessee includes three major geological divisions; the Blue Ridge on the border with North Carolina in the east, the ridge and valley Appalachians ("Tennessee Valley") in the center, and the Cumberland Plateau in the west. The Blue Ridge section comprises the western section of the Blue Ridge Province, the crest of which forms most of the Tennessee-North Carolina border and consists of the highest parts of the state. Most of the Blue Ridge section is heavily forested and protected by various state and federal entities, the largest of which include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forrest. Running through this area is Appalachian Trail, one of the world's most well-known hiking trails, was built in the mid-1930s. The Cherokee National Forest was established during the same period, preserving or restoring over 600,000 acres of forest land along the Ocoee River, which has developed into one of the nation's most popular whitewater rafting areas.
The Ridge-and-Valley section, often called the Tennessee Valley is the region's largest and most populous section. It consists of a series of alternating elongate ridges and broad river valleys roughly oriented northeast-to-southwest. This section's most notable feature, the Tennessee River, forms at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers in Knoxville, and flows southwestward to Chattanooga. East Tennessee is often called the birthplace of country music, due largely to the 1927 Victor recording sessions in Bristol, and throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has produced a steady stream of musicians of national and international fame.
Cherokee Lake is one of the oldest of the Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs. Construction on Cherokee Reservoir Dam was begun August 1, 1940 and was completed December 5, 1941. The dam is 175 feet high with a length totaling 6,760 feet. Cherokee Lake covers 30,300 acres at full pool, is 59 miles long, and has 463 miles of shoreline attracting over 2.5 million visitors annually. The TVA provides a variety of recreational faculties at Cherokee Dam including a day use area with a swimming beach, picnic area and a year-round boat launch ramp.
Fish densities in Cherokee Lake are greater than most of the other TVA Reservoirs due to the high level which results in a dense forage base of Threadfin Shad, Gizzard Shad, and Alewife. It is one of the few certified TVA Clean lakes. A variety of fish attractors have been constructed over the years to improve fishing for anglers. These include brush piles which are used by many game fish, and stake beds which are used primarily for concentrated crappie. The TVA has also planted Willow, Swamp Oak, Bald Cypress and River Birch in drawdown areas to create additional long lasting habitats.
Cherokee Lake is known for its Striped Bass fishing, but also offers Black Bass, Crappie, Walleye, Sauger, Sunfish, White Bass and Catfish. Large Mouth and Small Mouth Bass are not stocked in Cherokee Lake because of their great abundancy. Of all the TVA lakes tested, Cherokee Lake has the highest score for largemouth bass.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
Everyone enjoys walking the Downtown Parkway in Gatlinburg, which runs from one end of town to the other. It’s filled with a rich variety of attractions to see, activities to experience, restaurants, arts and crafts and shopping. For a quieter stroll, take the River Walk and enjoy the cheerful song of the Little Pigeon River, with gazebos and benches along the way. At the corner of traffic light #3, you will find the start of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Home to over 100 shops featuring craftspeople and artists along an 8-mile loop, it's the largest gathering of independent artisans in North America. You'll discover one-of-a-kind crafts, treasures and artwork, and you can watch the artisans at work. Stop along the way and chat with a painter or potter, or let a broom maker show you his craft.
Leaving Gatlinburg, you will find Pigeon Forge which is home to dozens of restaurants, outlet malls, amusement parks and dinner theatres. Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country entertain people of all ages with theme park rides, music and shows all year round.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Great Smoky Mountain National park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site straddling the Great Smoky Mountains part of the Blueridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountain chain. The border of Tennessee and North Carolina runs NE to SW through the center of the park. As the most visited National Park in America, it hosts 9-11 million visitors annually taking advantage of its 850 miles of hiking trails and over 700 miles of fishable streams. The park features biking and horseback trails, varied wildlife, camping, world class trout fishing, historic homes, waterfalls, and miles of auto touring.
Cades Cove is a portion of the park in an isolated valley that was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the National Park. Today it is the most popular destination to visitors of the park due to the variety of preserved homesteads, views and displays of wildlife. Clingman’s Dome is a mountain within the park and at 6,643 feet, is the highest point in East Tennessee and along the Appalachian Trail. A half mile paved trail leads to a 45 foot observation tower offering 360 degree views of the surrounding National Park and up to 100 miles on a clear day.
Knoxville is the largest city in East Tennessee and an easy drive to most all attractions. Home to The University of Tennessee, Knoxville offers many options typically reserved for larger cities. Knoxville's downtown has been developing, along with the opening of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Convention Center, the redevelopment of Market Square has brought national retailers, multiple dining options and a brand new theatre. The arts in particular have begun to flourish. There are multiple venues for outdoor concerts and Gay St. hosts a new arts annex and gallery surrounded by many studios and new business as well. The Tennessee and Bijou Theaters underwent renovation providing a good basis for the city and its developers to re purpose the old downtown and have had great success to date revitalizing this once great section of Tennessee.
The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra established in 1935, is the oldest continuing orchestra in the South. The KSO maintains a core of full-time professional musicians, and performs at more than 200 events per year. Its traditional venues include the Tennessee Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, and the Civic Auditorium, though it also performs at a number of non-traditional venues.
The city also hosts numerous art festivals, including the 17-day Dogwood Arts Festival in April, which features art shows, craft fairs, food and live music. Also in April is the very popular Rossini Festival, which celebrates opera and Italian culture with street vendors and street performers, bringing vendors in from all over.