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The Town That Wouldn't Drown

by Nicky Reynolds

Fall Foliage on Iron Mountain takes the breath away with its beauty

Johnson County, Tennessee may not be known for its man-made attractions, historic hotels, and restaurant chains, but it has something else that keeps drawing visitors from across the nation. The scenic beauty of the land rivals that of the Great Smoky Mountains, with its peaceful fishing streams, beautiful Watauga Lake, and adventurous trails.

Visitors can start off at the Johnson County Welcome Center and History Museum, where an assortment of artifacts explains the early settlement of the area. The third weekend of June, the Pipe Ceremony opens the Trade Days Festival with a blessing on the weekend's activities. Celebrating the Native Americans and Mountain Men who made Trade the first settlement in the First Frontier, the festival also includes crafts, apple butter making, quilting bees, live music, and all the old soon-to-be-forgotten ways of life.

The Old Butler Museum offers an incredible depiction of life in the 1940's before the Tennessee Valley Authority released enough water to cover an entire town. More than 400 families were forced to pack up their lives and literally move their homes three miles away.

Watauga Lake Photo Credit Tom Payne

The townspeople of Old Butler saved what they could and through their tireless work, the 200-year-old history of the Watauga River Valley has been preserved in this wonderful museum. In August, "the town that wouldn't drown" is celebrated with music, games, exhibits, and food. Festivalgoers can learn why the town was moved and even meet some of the former residents.

A beautiful drive through the mountains will bring you to Watauga Lake, the perfect place for fishing, boating, swimming, or sailing. And while lunch at the Dry Hill General Store will provide the atmosphere you need and the food you crave in this rural setting, local musicians will often drop in for a jam session during the evening hours.

On Friday and Saturday nights, enjoy all-you-can-eat barbecue, hot dogs and hamburgers and dance to live bluegrass, country and swing bands at the Butler Barn.

Beaverdam Creek located on Backbone Rock
Photo Credit Tom Payne

The Roan Valley Golf Resort is located nearby for avid golfers, and while hikers can trek up Backbone Rock in the Cherokee National Forest. For fishermen, Beaver Dam Creek and Doe Creek are world renowned for the trout caught in their waters. Hikers will be glad to know that the Appalachian Trail cuts through this beautiful part of Tennessee, and there are access trailheads for day hikes. Cyclists, both with and without motors, enjoy the backroads over, through and around the rolling farmlands and, for an extra challenge, over the mountains.

Gentry Creek
Photo Credit Tom Payne

Gentry Creek Falls is one of the most beautiful and most photographed waterfalls in northeast Tennessee, is a short drive from Laurel Bloomery where you access the trail to view the falls. In August, Laurel Bloomery is home to the Old Time Fiddler's Convention at Old Mill Park, a fun-filled convention with some of the best live music this side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Johnson County residents are definitely into fishing. Each June, they hold an annual Trout Rodeo at Old Mill Park to celebrate free fishing day in Tennessee. And the Johnson County High School is well known for its hydroponics program. Visitors can take a tour and even purchase some hydroponics-grown tomatoes, basil, and beautiful flowers, or take a tour of the school's fish hatchery. In late August or early September, the Rodeo comes to Mountain City.

Enjoy two days of ridin', ropin' and thrills and spills as nationally known rodeo riders compete for prizes at the Chamber Park on route 67. The second week in October, you can join the other visitors who flock to the annual Cranberry Festival in beautiful Shady Valley. Help celebrate the rare Southern, naturally occurring, non-commercial cranberry bogs grown here and be entertained with a parade, crafts, food, a quilt show and more. This is also the perfect opportunity to enjoy the beautiful fall colors of northeast Tennessee.

Getting to Johnson County is easy. A scenic 2 � hour drive from Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville or Greensboro, North Carolina finds you crossing into Johnson County and rounding Watauga Lake. Or fly into the Johnson County Airport in Mountain City, a private facility perfect for small planes. Once you arrive in Johnson County, experience the serenity of the mountains at the Iron Mountain Bed & Breakfast. Four private rooms, each with their own Jacuzzi bath and outdoor porch offer a quiet, relaxing retreat where no city lights can be seen, only beautiful mountain views.

For more information on Johnson County, contact the Johnson County Welcome Center at 423/727-5800. For a complete guide to traveling in Tennessee, visit TNVacation.com.

Tom Payne was born and raised in Mountain City , Tennessee , this veteran photographer is proud to call the beautiful vistas of East Tennessee home again . Having spent the last 20 years in the Northeast , his work is most familiar to that audience . Shooting for Philadelphia Magazine , Delaware Today and others for the past dozen years.

View from Iron Mountain
Photo Credit Tom Payne

An avid outdoors man , Tom has traveled throughout the US , Central and South America and the Caribbean in search of photograph's that have been reproduced in publications ranging from the Los Angeles Times to National Geographic Books. Corporate clients include UPS , DuPont , Astra Zenecca and others.

He recently moved back to his hometown in Tennessee where he still supplies images for editorial and advertising from stock files of 60,000 images. Also teaching photography and pursuing The Fine Art Show circuit full time , he displays his award winning color landscapes and stunning digital creations that appear in the fine art calendars , postcard books , notecards and other publications .

Member:American Society of Media Photographers
Tennessee Arts and Crafts Association

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