Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind visitors that Laurel Creek Road, the seven-mile access road leading from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove, will be closed to all motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 5 through Saturday, February 29 to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel. The only way for anyone to get to Cades Cove is to hike one of the trails, at the minimum an eight-mile trek.
The full closure, beginning just past Tremont Road, is necessary to allow equipment set-up for the repair of the internal drainage system in the walls and ceiling of the 121-foot long tunnel. Crews will enclose and heat the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is lower. Intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave the tunnel area.
The Cades Cove Campground, normally open during the winter months, will be closed December 30, 2019 through March 5, 2020. To accommodate winter campers, Elkmont Campground will remain open year-round along with Smokemont Campground in NC.
The Bote Mountain Tunnel, constructed in 1948, has not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel would also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months.