HISTORY OF HIGHWAY 28, aka Moonshiner 28

Portions of North Carolina 28, mainly the section between Franklin and Highlands shared today with US 64, date back to 1922. The post card reproduced on this page showing Cullasaja Falls was made sometime in the late 1920s and shows the roadway as unpaved.By 1935 it had extended from the North Carolina/Georgia State Line to Lauada at today’s intersection with US 19/74. It had also been extended southward into Georgia and South Carolina.

There were early roads along part of this route which connected various small communities, but they were not officially designated and were extremely difficult to travel. Maintenance performed by nearby residents was rudimentary at best.

After the construction of Fontana Dam in the mid-1940s NC 288 was submerged under the newly formed Fontana Lake. A new highway was constructed on the southern edge of the lake and designated as a continuance of NC 28 all the way to US 129 near the Tennessee border. The land to the north of Fontana Lake became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Fontana Project resulted in the destruction of NC 288 in 1943. Some 1,300 families had to be relocated. In the process twenty-eight cemeteries were moved to higher ground on the northern side of the lake. The Federal Government promised to build a new road along the north shore so families could access these cemeteries.

By 1969 the road from Bryson City had only been extended for 5 miles and the remaining twenty-six miles was never completed. Swain County has been in negotiation with the Federal Government for decades over what has become known as ” The Road to Nowhere”. Descendants of those buried across the lake have to take boats and hike to visit the gravesites.

The old NC 288 ended at US 129 right at the Tennessee/North Carolina State Line. Part of the old road is still there at the entrance to Cheoah Overlook and running nearly 3 miles easterly to a dead-end. The new Highway 28 was relocated farther to the south paralleling Cheoah Lake.

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