Cherokee National Forest

Tellico Plains is at the gateway to the southern Cherokee National Forest. The 640,000 acre forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee, running along the North Carolina border in the heart of the Southern Appalachian mountain range. The Cherokee National Forest is one of the world's most diverse areas, abounding with nature, history and scenic beauty. These mountains are home to more than 20,000 species of plants and animals. Recreational opportunities are plentiful, with hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, swimming holes, streams, rivers and abundant wildlife. In the Cherokee National Forest there are 43 species of mammals, 55 species of amphibians and reptiles and 154 species of fish. Each year millions of people visit Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest.

Cherokee National Forest took its name from the Cherokee Indians, stewards of this land long before colonial settlers moved into what is now east Tennessee in the late 1700s. A wave of the northern timber companies moved to this region in the early 1880s. By 1910, almost 40 percent of the timber produced in the United States was harvested from the Southern Appalachian Mountains. As timber and mineral companies bought up large tracts of land, small mountain farms decreased and towns became important centers of population. Local residents were employed both in the forest and in work camps. For several years, lumbering provided steady dependable income for thousands of mountaineers. Timber was brought out of the mountains by rail and by the rivers. A rail line was built along the Tellico River in the early 1900s. Because of constant flooding, this road was moved upslope and converted to a road in the mid-1930s, and today it is the Tellico River Road (FR 210), a beautifully scenic drive.

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