The folk custom of Decoration Day, while having been a long tradition of maintaining the gravesites of love ones in the Smoky Mountains, became the cultural underpinning for a movement in the early 1970s. A large number of families had been removed from the area that came to be known as the "North Shore" in 1943 when Fontana Dam was completed. Some were directly impacted by the rising waters of Fontana Lake. Others were indirectly impacted, since the lake covered most of a road that had run along the north side of the Little Tennessee River before the dam was built. But a formal agreement arrived at by the U.S. Department of the Interior (on behalf of the National Park Service), the Tennessee Valley Authority, the State of North Carolina, and Swain County provided that after World War Two had concluded, a new road would be built through the region, which had become part of the national park.

The new road would have provided, for the people removed from their homes, access again to the old home sites and access to 27 cemeteries that, according to their cultural traditions, should be properly cleaned and decorated annually and visited by relatives and friends of the deceased in a religious service in the cemetery known as a decoration (or Decoration Day). In the years after the war, portions of the promised road were indeed built. But by the 1960s the construction ceased at a point just beyond a tunnel under a mountain ridge. This struck many people as odd, and someone appropriately named it the "Road to Nowhere". The name has stuck ever since.

Today, access to these cemeteries and old family homesteads is only by water. Fontana Village Marina offers transportation by pontoon shuttle to these cemeteries in the Smokies on Decoration Days. Click Here for a current Decoration Schedule of Events and Locations at the North Shore Cemetery and Historical Associations website.. More information can also be obtained from the Fontana Marina staff. The Marina can be reached at 828.498.2129.


Fontana Village Resort | 300 Woods Road • P.O. Box 68 | Fontana Dam, North Carolina 28733
Phone: 828.498.2211 • Toll Free Reservations: 800.849.2258
Group Sales: 828.498.2154 • Member Sales: 828.498.2108

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