Forgotten Places: Abandoned Towns You Can Still Find If You Know Where to Look

There is beauty in the way nature overtakes what man leaves behind.  The way any unattended structure becomes covered in Kudzu in the South in the summertime.  It’s a haunting, eerie beauty.  Visiting places that were once thriving communities, but now belong to the land, you feel the energy and vitality that once lived there.   

The Southeast has plenty of captivating, fascinating places. Some have dark pasts and sad stories. Those of us who are intrigued by these stories and drawn to these abandoned places have many to choose from.  Grab your backpack, your best buddy, and get ready for some seriously spooky adventure. 

Brunswick Town, North Carolina

Brunswick Town offers a glimpse into the history of both the American Revolution and the Civil War. This was once a thriving colonial town and was a popular trading port along the Cape Fear River. It was the site of multiple attacks during the Revolutionary War, which caused most of its residents to flee to safety in cities like Wilmington and New Bern. With the town left in ruins, it was turned into Anderson Fort as a stronghold for the confederate army in 1862. Today, you can walk through what remains of St. Phillips Church and even see indentations where cannon balls struck the church during the Civil War. 

Fontana Lake, North Carolina

The underwater town of Judson was once home to roughly 600 residents and is one of North Carolina’s best-kept spooky secrets. This small town had been a thriving settlement with shops, schools and even a sawmill…that is, until Swain County started to sell off plots of land to the government for the construction of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Lake in the 1930s.  The town’s residents had to seek refuge, and what remained of Judson was submerged forever. You can occasionally catch a glimpse of the town when the lake is very low. 

Lost Cove, North Carolina

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservatory recently bought this land and is in the process of integrating it into the Pisgah National Forest. This old river town came to be during the time of the Civil War, starting out as an agricultural community (with a little moonshining as a side gig). The railroad came in some years later, which helped transform Lost Cove into something of a success in the logging and mining business. However, business did not boom for very long. The town became too remote when the train stopped making stops there and the residents all moved away.  Lost Cove is only accessible by hike on the Lost Cove Trail off Flat Top Road near Burnsville, NC. 

Elkmont, Tennessee 

In the early 1900s, Elkmont was known for the Appalachian Club, according to representatives of Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The club consisted of a group of wealthy Blue Ridge families who built cabins and a clubhouse for themselves on the Elkmont land. It soon became an exclusive retreat for those with enough money and prestige to buy into the opportunity.

When the plan for the Great Smokey Mountain National Park began to be ramped up, Elkmont had to shut down and sell the land to the state government. Members of the community managed work out a deal that included lease agreements for life during this transition. 

The Appalachian Club is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The area is protected by the National Register of Historic Places and there are plans to restore 19 of its buildings. Elkmont, just 15 minutes from Gatlinburg, is easily accessible by way of Elkmont campground. There are trails, a cemetery, and dilapidated buildings to admire, and refurbished buildings that can be explored and even rented for special occasions.

If you love exploring, enjoy the outdoors and have an interest in history…these locations will fulfill all those desires. Take time out to enjoy these special places and look carefully for the clues left behind that tell us what life was like in another time.


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