In 1945, construction on the Fontana Dam was completed, the structure stretching across the Tennessee River, creating Fontana Lake. The dam was built for the war effort, creating electricity for ALCOA aluminum plants and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project. The Dam also provided flood control and recreation, and part of the project included dedicating surrounding land in Swain County as the Great Smoky Mountains National park.
The downside to the project was that several towns became submerged in the process of creating Fontana lake. Residents were forced to leave their communities, and along with their homes, they highway many used to travel, Old Highway 288 became submerged underwater.
Residents were promised a new road, Lakeview Drive by the Federal government, which would have run along the shore of Lake Fontana, and allow them access to family cemeteries.
Unfortunately the road was never finished due to environmental issues, and Lakeview drive ends at a tunnel 6 miles into the park. Ultimately, the US Department of Interior reached a 52 million dollar settlement in place of finishing the road, and the park service ferries families across the lake on summer weekends to visit the cemeteries.
Lakeview Drive, now known informally as the “road to nowhere” is still accessible today. Visitors can drive up the 6 miles of road in the park, and take in views of Lake Fontana. Once the end of the road is reached, visitors can walk the 1,200 foot length of the tunnel and explore the hiking trails on the other side.