Thousands of cars roll through one of the Smokies most modern trails each year. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail winds six miles on a one-way loop just east of Gatlinburg.
Drivers can roll along the scenic trail for automobiles and stop at any of the 15 designated historic sites. Travelers find a thousand reasons to make the final stop at an 80 foot rock bluff known as "The Place of 1,000 Drips."
Cliff Branch cascades down moss-covered bedrock via countless small falls. The water eventually flows into Roaring Fork a few hundred yards away.
A thousand drips may be an average in the wide range of water flow at the falls. When the water is down, the pristine spot can seem more like the place of a few dozen trickles. However, an afternoon shower will quickly result in a pouring tide of infinite drips, leaving little mystery as to how this place earned its name.
While the source for the name is self-evident, it is unknown who gave it the name or exactly when it was given its drippy moniker.
Annette Hartigan, librarian with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the name Place of 1,000 Drips does not appear on any of the park's early maps. A search for the name found it printed in newspaper articles in 1963 regarding construction of the new automobile nature trail. That led to speculation that the name could possibly be contemporary in an attempt to attract attention to the new scenic motor route.
However, other historical researchers have documented an oral history of sorts. Allen Coggins, author of the book Place Names of the Smokies, reviewed some of his files and found documentation of a conversation regarding the Place of 1,000 Drips.
"I had interviewed Glenn Cardwell, a legend with the park service who later became the mayor of Pittman Center. He recalled a conversation he had with Herb Clabo, a local man who grew up in the area, is more than 100 years old, and is still very sharp," said Coggins. "Cardwell told me he asked Clabo about the name Place of 1,000 Drips and Clabo's response was, 'That's what they always called it.' So based on that, you can safely assume the name goes back at least to the early 20th century."
Whenever or whoever came up with the numeric nickname, it adds up to a fitting label for one of the most accessible and spectacular sculptures by Mother Nature in all of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Visiting the Place of 1,000 Drips
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail begins and ends near downtown Gatlinburg. With the Place of 1,000 Drips being the last stop on a one-way loop, you'll have to navigate the entire trail to reach the falls.
To get to Roaring Fork, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light 8 onto Historic Nature Trail Road. Follow the road to the Cherokee Orchard Entrance to the GSMNP. Shortly thereafter, there will be signs clearly marked for you to turn right onto the one-way motor trail. The road is narrow, curvy, and does not allow trailers or RVs. The motor trail is closed in the winter.
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Note: Namesake is the renamed title of the series formerly known as 'Why do they call it that?'
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