The history of The Sinks is one that dates back to the early logging industry in the Smoky Mountains. While it exists today as a popular tourist destination for waterfall enthusiasts, the landscape did not always appear as it does today. With a bit of dynamite, some innovation, and an accidental vista, The Sinks were created - but weren't always intended to be a tourist stop.
For those who wish to visit them, they're fairly easy to find - and yes, it is just as beautiful in person as it appears to be in photos! Those visiting the Smoky Mountains for dramatic scenery will not be disappointed, especially those who consider themselves to be avid hikers. So, get those cameras ready and prepare to be awe-struck by one of the Smokies' most popular waterfalls, and the incredible story behind how it was unintentionally created.
How The Sinks Were (Unintentionally) Created In The Smokies
Perhaps it was a coincidence, or perhaps it was fate - whatever the reason behind the blast that created The Sinks, tourists are glad that it happened. This scenic waterfall has an interesting history and it's one that goes back to the late 19th century. At that time, the Smoky Mountains were home to a growing logging industry, and Little Falls was a means of getting timber from the worksite to the sawmill.
While the natural buoyancy of the logs made transporting them easy work, disaster eventually struck in the form of a flood. This caused a massive logging jam in the bend of the river, which prevented timber from making its way down to the sawmill. With walls of timber becoming an issue and the lack of materials completely halting the logging process, something needed to be done. Enter: Dynamite.
It's estimated that potentially thousands of logs were jamming the horseshoe-shaped bend in the river, all of which required freeing to avoid future flooding. Dynamite was laid with the intention of blowing the timber away; however, the team responsible got more than they bargained for during the explosion. While the blast did free the logs, it also blew away a chasm that measured roughly 30 feet deep. Thus, The Sinks were formed along with their incredible white-water rapids. While the blast wasn't meant to create a man-made waterfall, more than two centuries later, that's exactly what it did. With the two ends of the horseshoe-shaped bend connected, this also provided a new route for loggers. Today, The Sinks is protected as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Visiting The Sinks In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Despite the fact that The Sinks waterfall is tucked away in the woodlands of the Smokies, it has still remained a very popular tourist site. For those visiting Gatlinburg or Towsend, finding The Sinks takes about an hour-long drive. The waterfall does sit roadside, so those renting cars or driving their own should have an easy time finding the parking lot that sits just above the cascade. In all likelihood, visitors will probably hear this waterfall before they see it - its churning waters make quite an uproar in the otherwise silent surroundings of the Smokies!
- Waterfall Height: 15 feet
The waterfall itself is a stunning sight even from above in the parking lot, and there is a great hike that one can take to get a different vantage point.
- Meigs Creek Hiking Trail: The parking lot for this trail is right next to The Sinks, so it's easy enough to find. This hike not only starts at The Sinks but also takes hikers to another separate scenic waterfall called the Meigs Creek Cascades. At a height of 18 feet, it's a 1.7-mile hike (one way) to the tallest waterfall along the trail. In total, the trail is 3.4 miles round-trip and does include some water crossings and some inclines as hikers ascend Curry He Mountain.
Although visitors might see others climbing down the rocks of The Sinks in order to get a closer look, this should be avoided. Slippery conditions, a strong whirlpool at the bottom (hence its name), and rapid conditions have led to injuries and fatalities for those who have lost their footing.
It is not recommended to swim at The Sinks despite the fact that the seemingly calm water at its base might look inviting. Rather, it's best to admire these falls from a distance and respect the tremendous power behind their churning rapids. This easily reachable waterfall continues to be one of the most impressive in the Smoky Mountains and is well worth the drive from its nearby cities.