Situated just five miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge is primarily a tourist resort. The city's attractions include Dollywood and numerous outlet malls and music theaters.
Get to Pigeon Forge by taking I-40 East of Knoxville (I-75) to Exit 407. Go Southbound approximately 13 miles until you reach the Pigeon Forge City Limits. U.S. Route 441, known as "The Parkway," runs through the middle of Pigeon Forge en route to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where it crests at Newfound Gap before descending to Cherokee, North Carolina. The strip along 441 contains most of Pigeon Forge's tourist attractions. U.S. Route 321 (known as Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge) connects the town with Wears Valley and Townsend to the west. Upper Middle Creek Road (a section of which is called Dollywood Lane) connects Pigeon Forge with Dollywood and the rural areas of eastern Sevier County.
The name "Pigeon Forge" comes from an iron forge built by Isaac Love (1783–1854) sometime around 1820. The name of this forge referred to its location along the Little Pigeon River, in the vicinity of what is now the Old Mill. The name of the river comes from the flocks of Passenger Pigeons that frequented its banks at the time of the first Euro-American settlers' arrival.
For centuries, the Cherokee used the valley where Pigeon Forge is now located as a hunting ground. A Cherokee footpath known as the Indian Gap Trail crossed the Great Smokies from North Carolina, and passed through the Pigeon Forge valley en route to its junction with the Great Indian Warpath in modern Sevierville (US-441 closely parallels this ancient trail, although it crests the mountains at Newfound Gap rather than Indian Gap). From Sevierville, the Warpath headed west toward the Overhill Cherokee towns along the Little Tennessee River.
The Indian Gap Trail brought the first Europeans to the Pigeon Forge area in the early 18th century. Along with hunters and trappers from North Carolina, traders from Virginia had passed through the valley before 1750. Sometime after 1783, Colonel Samuel Wear (1753–1817) became the first permanent Euro-American settler in the Pigeon Forge area. Wear, a veteran of the American Revolution, erected a small fort near the confluence of Walden Creek and the Little Pigeon River (what is now Pigeon Forge City Park). The fort provided a safe stopover for the early pioneers in the Sevier County area. Wear would later serve as a member of the committee that drafted Tennessee's state constitution.
In 1982, hoping the capitalize on the publicity generated by the Knoxville World's Fair, Pigeon Forge initiated an aggressive economic plan that centered around theme parks, outlet malls, and live music venues. The first outlet mall, Factory Merchants, opened that same year. By 1987, there were four outlet malls in Pigeon Forge, and by the early 1990s, outlet malls provided 44% of the town's gross revenue.
The increasing number of tourist attractions brought competition for Silver Dollar City and its chief competitor in Pigeon Forge, Magic World, which had constructed a theme park on the slopes of Pine Mountain in the city's south section. In 1985, the Herschends approached entertainer Dolly Parton (who was born in nearby Sevierville) with a proposal for a partnership in the promotion and operation of Silver Dollar City. After lengthy negotiations, Parton became a minority partner in the enterprise, and Silver Dollar City was renamed Dollywood to kick off a major marketing campaign. The move proved successful as Dollywood continued expansion into the 21st century. Magic World folded in 1994.
While the commercial boom in Pigeon Forge vastly increased the town's revenue, it had several undesirable effects. As land value skyrocketed, many farmers could no longer afford the accompanying high property taxes and were forced to sell their land. The high cost of living in a resort town is difficult to offset with the low wage jobs that often accompany the tourist industry.
Attractions and events in Pigeon Forge include the Dollywood theme park, Titanic Museum, The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the award-winning Country Tonight Theatre, the Comedy Barn, The Black Bear Jamboree Dinner Show, the Miracle Theater, Dixie Stampede, Zorb, Flyaway Indoor Skydiving, other entertainment venues such as magician Terry Evanswood's at Magic Beyond Belief theater where magic shows are presented, and seasonal events such as Winterfest. These attractions and the natural beauty of the area draw approximately 11 million visitors each year. Pigeon Forge has become the southeast mecca for car and truck enthusiasts.
Information taken from Wikipedia
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