The Fascinating Story of How Dynamite Created The Sinks at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Sinks is more of a roaring cascade than a waterfall but there is a fascinating history behind this man-made feature in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Written by

Jason Barnette

on

October 6, 2016

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COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.

Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!

Boom. No wait that’s not right. BOOM! I imagine that must’ve been what it sounded like in the late 1800s when loggers ignited a pile of dynamite in the middle of the Little River. The explosion freed a log jam and created what we now call The Sinks.

Early Logging in the Great Smoky Mountains

In the last years of the 1800s the logging industry came to the Great Smoky Mountains. Townsend was a barely established town along the Little River that provided pretty easy access for loggers. Soon enough the industry boomed as forests fell.

Before the train came to the area the only way to get the cut timber to a saw mill nearly twenty miles away was to float them down the Little River. Logs are naturally buoyant so this task was fairly easy, although not without complications.

The Little River cascades across jagged rocks at The Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Creation of The Sinks

One year a massive flood swept along the Little River. Loggers were still floating the timber down river despite the turbulent conditions of the water flow.

The original route of the Little River at this location included a sharp horseshoe bend. During the flood a massive pile of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of logs jammed in the bend of the river. To make matters worse the flood waters began to recede and left the timbers firmly stuck.

Loggers had a simple solution: blast it with dynamite. The explosion blasted a nearly 30′ deep chasm and connected the two ends of the horseshoe bend in the river, creating a new route.

The Sinks is a popular fishing hole, though I’ve never actually seen a fisherman walk away with a catch.

Visiting The Sinks

The Sinks is one of those strangely popular but still hidden destinations within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s about a half hour drive from either Gatlinburg or Townsend along Little River Road.

The small parking area sits on a bank high above the roaring cascades. The point where the water rushes over the jagged rocks is where the dynamite blast created the chasm and rerouted the river.

A short walk from the parking area leads to a scenic overlook where you have a pretty good view of the cascades below. A primitive path continues along the bank of the river with a few places to get down near the water or get a better view of the cascades.

Park rangers highly recommend people not to jump or swim in these waters, although it’s not actually forbidden. The river is deceptively deep and the rushing water created a suction effect that sometimes pulls people to the very bottom. Rangers are called to The Sinks a few times each year to save stranded swimmers and every once in a while one of them drowns.

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Meigs Creek Trail

The trail head for Meigs Creek Trail is located at The Sinks parking area. This 6.5-mile out and back trail crosses a mountain and ends at the Lumber Ridge Trail. With a 1,300′ elevation change the trail is moderately strenuous.

About 3.5 miles on this trail leads to a small waterfall on Meigs Creek. At this point hikers have only crossed half the mountain which makes this a moderate and pleasant hike.

Note: This waterfall is not the same Meigs Falls that is viewable from a pull-off along Little River Road.

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