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Written by Dave Lapha on 06 Oct, 2007
We decided to take I-40 and get off exit 276 in Western North Carolina and find the valley where the park service had released 25 elk back in 2001. Then again in 2002 another two dozen were reintroduced. Taking Cove Creek Road for…Read More
We decided to take I-40 and get off exit 276 in Western North Carolina and find the valley where the park service had released 25 elk back in 2001. Then again in 2002 another two dozen were reintroduced. Taking Cove Creek Road for approximately 11 miles it will wind you through a residential area before turning into a gravel road. Follow the road as it climbs up the mountain and then drops down into a quiet, peaceful valley. The first thing you learn is that more than 1200 people had lived in this gorgeous valley surrounded by rising mountains and spectacular meadows near the turn of the 20th century. At that time there was nearly 200 buildings scattered around the meadows. Now only a handful remains, memorials to a past lost. As you travel on into the remote meadows you pass by the home, farm, church, or school of people who lived here a century ago before you came.Stopping at the bulletin board with information on it, you learn more of the reintroduction and that it’s the first time in at least 150 years that elk would roam the Smokies. Many of the original elk remain in the Cataloochie area today and come out to feed during the early morning and evenings. As the herd grew they pressed on moving further west. Sightings have been reported through out the park and we actually observed a family of elk in the Big Cove area on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.As we follow the narrow two way road into the remote meadow we pull to the side and there standing tall and proud with a huge rack stands our first look at the beautiful bull elk. While sitting there more start appearing out of the forest, all of a sudden you hear the bugle of the bull calling his ladies. As we continue to watch we see two bull elk butting racks and trying to intimidate each other, trying to force the other to find its own territory. They are so beautiful you just don’t want to leave, but there are still the buildings to investigate while you’re in this gorgeously surrounded valley. Mountains and valleys rising and lowering as you look all around you.Today this is still considered one of the “forgotten” valleys, but as word gets out of the beauty and the glorious sightings of those huge, big, beautiful animals and even an occasional bear it may not stay that way for long. Close