“Base Camp for the Great Smokies”
Bryson City is becoming one of the most interesting day trips in the Smokies. Home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad the towns downtown area is full of railroad memorabilia. And besides being on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is also located near the Nantahala Gorge and all the great outdoor activities that happen there on a daily basis.
What is today Bryson City was once part of an Indian Reservation owned by a Cherokee Chief named Big Bear. Big Bear sold part of the land to two different settlers and the resulting area became known as a Bear Springs. The county seat of Swain County was originally the town of Charleston which was located along mina street in current day Bryson City. In 1889 the name of the town was changed to Bryson City, after Colonel Thaddeus Bryson one of the early land owners.
Two big changes happened to Bryson City in the first half of the 20th century: the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the establishment of Fontana Dam. The GSMNP provided millions of visitors to the area each and every year. Bryson City has garnered these visitors into a thriving tourism trade that has become the main economic stimulus in the area. Fontana Dam flooded the valley near Bryson City. The creation of Fontana Lake brought people to the area that wanted to spend time playing in the water – these visitors soon found Bryson City a nice day trip from the lake.
- 1,411 population
- 1,752’ (average altitude)
- 35°25′37″N 83°26′52″W
- Swain County
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