“Wave over Wave” Cataloochee Valley Elk

Cataloochee Valley used to be a well-kept secret tucked away on the eastern edge of the Smoky Mountains National Park. When we lived in Waynesville, NC we would frequently visit this place to witness the revival of the elk population that was hunted out of existence about 150 years ago. When we first started coming here there were only a handful of onlookers watching the 50 or so elk. Now…7 years after our initial visit the elk population here has surpassed 15o elk and the spectators have also tripled! Great news for the elk population, but I liked it better when it wasn’t so crowded here. Oh well, it is still a fantastic trip to take if you are ever in the Maggie Valley/Cherokee/Waynesville North Carolina area! October is prime time to come here as the elk are in “rut”…they’re looking for some action 🙂 Come here enough days in the fall and you will likely see a good fight and hear some bugling as well.

I still need that zoom lense, but we did get to witness a good chase. One bull elk came out of nowhere and charged another that we had been watching for about an hour as a third bull decided to come out of the woods and join in the fun. Dominance must have already been established before this incident because the charging bull easily removed the other two from flirting with his girls.

The Losers

Cataloochee is Cherokee for “wave over wave” or “fringe sticking straight up”, probably referring to the mountains that serve as the beautiful backdrop of this pristine valley.After a while, Kylee got bored watching the elk and thought everyone else could use a little entertainment while we waited for something to happen.

Kylee practicing her bugling

Anyway, if you get a chance to come here…do it! There are spectacular hiking trails, horse trails, camping, and wildlife. I have hiked back here before and run into a few bears even. A special place, indeed. A 1/4 into the woods and the crowds are gone.


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