How can you get to Cades Cove?

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Working inside a tunnel that is the access to Cades Cove, construction crews drill through cracks caused by eight decades of running water.

Source: WVLT News

"The contractors are right now working on chipping the existing drains and saw cutting to get a clean surface," said Herb Kupfer, Landscape Archetec. "If you have leaks in the tunnel you have chance to undermine the concrete and we don't want concrete roof falling on cars. so thats' why we want to do preventative maintenance ahead of time."

The Cades Cove Loop Road closed on January 5.

This is the first major work for this tunnel since the 1940's. The park service said this time of year as many as 800 cars a day would use this road to access Cades Cove.

Park Ranger Dana Soehn, said doing construction now makes this work less impactful than in the summer months.

"A single lane closure in the months of June and July is much more disruptive than a full closure during January and February," she said. "We're encouraging people to explore the rest of the park during this short closure period. You can still hike in the Cades Cove area, but it's very difficult."

The work inside has to be done with temperatures above 50 degrees, which is why the tunnel had to be closed completely.

Crews said this will lead to a safer ride for you and your family for years to come.

"So we're not just putting something up, slap dash not it, no thought into it, we're trying to keep it beautiful for the visitors to enjoy and at the same time maintain vehicular access into Cades Cove," said Kupfer.

The tunnel should open back up at the end of February.

For those looking to visit Cades Cove, here's information about how to hike in. People can walk in on Rich Mountain Road or through trails like Rich Mountain trail or Rabbit Creek Trail. People can camp at a back country camp site on Gregory Ridge.

"The closest way into Cades Cove is about a 7 mile one way walk. So people need to make sure they're prepared and planning for a 14 mile hike and that's before you even get to really enjoy the cove. So you are welcome to do that you just have to make sure you're prepared especially during the winter months when you have shorter daylight hours," said Soehn.

More tunnels are scheduled for repairs, the Gatlinburg Spur tunnel will get work next, but park rangers say they won't have to do a complete closure.

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