The creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the 1920s and 1930s resulted in many homesteaders being evicted from their lands. The construction of Fontana Dam (1942-44) created Fontana Lake which flooded the existing roadway NC288 and many of the small ghost towns along the route. What remained on the north side of the new lake in the National Park were cemeteries and ruins of homesteads, logging operations and mining towns.
The Federal Government promised those who had been displaced that a new road would be constructed along the northern shoreline to allow access to the newly isolated cemeteries where their loved ones rested. A thirty mile road known as Lakeview Drive would link Bryson City and Fontana. Construction began, but with just 6 miles and a tunnel competed work was halted because of environmental concerns. These issues were resolved, but road work never resumed. The Lakeview Drive became known as the Road to Nowhere by disgruntled citizens.
After decades of legal wrangling, the United States Department of the Interior settled by agreeing to pay Swain County fifty-two million dollars for the broken promise. This completely left out neighboring Graham County who also had an interest in seeing the road completed. Today the only access to the cemeteries is by trail, a long and rugged hike or by boat crossing Fontana Lake.
Today the Road to Nowhere has become popular with hikers, fly fishermen, horseback riders and the motoring tourist. Trail access to the Noland Creek Trail and Lakeshore Trail can be found along the Road to Nowhere. And, Noland Creek is a picture perfect Smoky Mountains trout stream.
And a movie was even filmed in the area. Alien Abduction, a 2014 sci-fi based on the real life Brown Mountain Lights of North Carolina, had several scenes along the road and in the tunnel.
The six miles of the Road to Nowhere is an interesting motoring adventure with some scenic views of Fontana Lake, several hiking trails in addition to the 30 mile Northshore Trail and a scary walk through the “alien abduction” tunnel.