Scenic Tennessee 68 & Apalachia Dam

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Route 68 provides a relaxing mountain drive past rolling farmlands through southeastern Tennessee.  If you’re coming from northern Georgia, and headed for the Cherohala Skyway, this is the route you’ll take.

When you reach the split between Rte. 68 (which heads north) and Rte. 123 (which heads east into North Carolina, to the Hiwassee Dam and Lake), you’ll spot this old gas station/store/garage.  Clearly it’s been abandoned for decades, but it still makes for some good pictures.

Apalachia Dam

As you drive along Route 68, you’ll have access to several dams, which are part of the Tennessee Valley Authority system.  If you’d like to see one of them up-close, the Apalachia Dam is closest to the highway, and easy to access.

The turnoff to Apalachia Dam is in Farner, TN, about 3 miles north of the Rte. 68/123 split.  You’ll have to drive 2-3 miles on a well-maintained dirt road.

The dirt road ends just below the dam.  Enjoy the view, but don’t go too close to the water, since a release could happen at any time, rapidly raising the water level in the Hiwassee River.

The Apalachia Dam (yes, that’s the correct spelling, even though the mountain range is spelled with two p’s: Appalachia) can generate up to 93,600 kilowatts.  Construction on the dam was completed in 1943.  And here’s one more fun fact: as you approach the dam, you’ll cross over into North Carolina, even though there’s no sign to welcome you to the state.

If you’ve visited other hydroelectric dams (like Hoover Dam near Las Vegas) you’ll immediately notice that at the Apalachia Dam, something’s different.  There is no web of high-tension power lines feeding the dam.  Instead, you’ll notice one extremely huge water pipe, running over the road.  Water from the dam flows through the pipe and into a tunnel, eventually ending up at the power generator station, 8.3 miles away.

To better understand the lay of the land, and appreciate the distance between the dam and the powerhouse, check out this topographical map of the area.

I did not see any way to access the Apalachia Reservoir (on the other side of the dam) from this road.  I suppose you could park below the dam, and walk over it, but I can’t guarantee that you wouldn’t be chased off by security (even though I saw no “no trespassing” signs during my visit).

Back on Rte. 68…

After returning to Route 68, continue north.  You’ll find a few good places to take in the view, such as this roadside stop next to the Hiwassee River.

From here, the two-lane road winds through the forest, as it continues towards the Cherohala Skyway.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.

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