Date Explored: July 30, 2013
Written by: Shawn Dunnaway
Elevation: Around 2100'
Weather: Sunny, 78°
GPS: 35.513068, -83.306124
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on the south side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. The welcome center is a popular stop for tourists who are entering the park from Cherokee on US 441.
The name "Oconaluftee" was used because the valley and river in the surrounding area shares that name, which comes from the Cherokee village name Egwanulti, which means "by the river". According to Wikipedia the location of the village is unknown, although some archaeological evidence suggests it could have been on the river just inside the national park.
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center has many exhibits detailing the history of the area, including displays about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians who lived in this area. You can also read about the creation of the Smoky Mountains National Park, see the remains of a moonshine still, and learn about how people lived in the area before the creation of the park.
One interesting aspect of the visitor center is that it was built in 2011 in just two months. Prior to that, the visitor center was a stone and log cabin built in 1940 by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).
If you're driving along US 441 in the Cherokee area, stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for a break and learn about the vibrant history of the national park.