Feb 9, 2013 – Fresh photos of the landslide on the Cherohala Skyway
With temps nearing 60, I took the opportunity to ride out and see the landslide up close.
A few weeks ago the Smoky Mountain area was hit with drenching rains which caused a number of landslides. The most significant of them is on US 441 in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many of these situations have already been addressed, but some will have effects into the early motorcycle riding season.
We hope the worst is behind us, but realize we’re only half way through winter. There is still the potential for more slides as the freeze / thaw cycles break rock and this is the time of year when most of them happen. Heavy rain is unusual and this slide is quite extensive. I suspect a retaining wall will eventually be constructed, but I wouldn’t count on a quick fix on this remote section of road.
The slide happened on the North Carolina section of the road about a mile from the border with Tennessee. There are big overlooks on this scenic road located on each side of the slide. It at about 4800 feet elevation though the highest parts of the road are well above 5000 feet high. Views are gorgeous.
A lot of soil was lost. It doesn’t seem practical to try to fill it in, the area seems to go 800 – 1000 feet down the mountainside. It has undercut the pavement, getting close to the edge made me a little nervous!
No telling why this section off the road let loose while others remain intact. It doesn’t appear much different or more steep than many other sections. It’s at one of the higher elevations so you wouldn’t think there was a lot of subterranean water flow, yet it happened.
I don’t expect a quick fix. While this is a popular and scenic road, it is not a vital through-way. It’s about as far away from civilization as you can get in this area of the mountains. The North Carolina county in which it occurred is one of the poorest in the state, and there is far more impact on tourism related to the major landslide on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It’s not so bad! The traffic lights are quick. There is rarely much traffic on this outstanding motorcycle ride, its still one of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the US despite this minor inconvenience. I would not change my plans, heck, there’s one more unique thing to see on this ride. The overlook closest to the North Carolina side has bathrooms, so it’s a popular place for a break. DO IT!
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com
Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience. Total Rider Tech