A History of the Road to Nowhere

While the Road to Nowhere earned its name for never completing construction, the six mile road has a complex history that draws visitors in from all over.

The main entrance of the tunnel at the end of the Road to Nowhere. Photo by Keegan Wiggins

During the 1930s and 1940s, land throughout Swain County was sold to the Federal Government in order to create Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Fontana Lake was created as a reservoir for Fontana Dam, which was built as a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project during WWII to produce electricity for ALCOA aluminum plants in Tennessee as well as for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project.

However, this displaced hundreds of people. With the park and lake, their homes were gone as well as the old Highway 288, which gave them access to their communities.

In order to compensate for the loss of the highway, the Federal Government promised to build a new highway that would allow citizens to still access old communities and cemeteries. Lakeview Drive was meant to stretch along the north shore of Fontana Lake from Bryson City to Fontana.

However, Lakeview Drive fell victim to Anakeesta Rock, which releases a mild sulfuric acid when exposed to the elements. It was discovered when snowfall in the area would instantly melt on the exposed rock, producing a strong sulfuric odor. Officials were concerned that the acid from the rock would leak through rainfall into nearby streams and damage plants and wildlife.

As a result of the Anakeesta Rock, construction was stopped about six miles into the road, ending in a tunnel. Although the issue was eventually resolved, construction never resumed, resulting in the infamous Road to Nowhere.

The sign that greets visitors at the beginning of the 6 mile road. Photo by Keegan Wiggins

After years of legal struggle, Swain County finally saw a resolution. In Feb. 2010, the U.S. Department of Interior, which is responsible for the management and conversation of federal land, signed a settlement agreement to pay Swain County $52 million in lieu of building Lakeview Drive. Congressman, Heath Shuler, a Bryson City native, was the driving force of bringing the settlement into fruition.

Although the history behind the Road to Nowhere doesn’t show any signs of hauntings, the trail is still well known for its ominous atmosphere. Click here to read about my haunted experience.