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Photo: Sign for U.S. 441 heading southbound out of the Smokies.
|U.S. 441 60 miles|
|The Road:||Enters the state from Dillard, Georgia, in Macon
Leaves the state and enters Tennessee at Newfound Gap, Swain County.
Nationally, U.S. 441 runs from Miami to Lake City, Tennessee (I-75 exit 128).
|Towns and Attractions:||Macon Co.: Surrounded by Nantahala National
Forest. Follows Little Tennessee River (elevation 2000-2200) into Franklin.
North of Franklin, 441 climbs the Cowee Mountains. (map
of God's Country)
Jackson Co.: Elevation about 3300 at the Macon/Jackson line; follows the Savannah Creek into Dillsboro. Follows the Tuckaseegee River northwest of Dillsboro.
Swain Co.: Cherokee (elevation 1900). Follows the Oconaluftee River into GSMNP. Newfound Gap Road within the park; follows the Beech Flats Prong up to Newfound Gap (elevation 5048). Clingmans Dome Road and the Appalachian Trail at the state line.
|Intersections:||Macon Co.: M-U.S. 23 all the way
to Dillsboro; M-U.S. 64 around Franklin; N.C.
28 near Franklin.
Jackson Co.: M-U.S. 74 for several miles northwest of Dillsboro
Swain Co.: M-U.S. 19; BRP southern terminus (mile 470)
|Four lanes all the way from the Georgia
line to U.S. 19 in Cherokee. Many maps don't show this, because the highway
isn't divided over the whole length. Instead, there's a center turning
lane, which admittedly in most places is rather useless. The four-laning
ends abruptly at the Georgia line; U.S. 441 is still only two lanes through
Clayton and Dillard. Welcome to Georgia. Now Merge Right.
Four lanes divided for a mile or so at the entrance to GSMNP, for some reason.
|History:||In the early 1920s, N.C. 441's path was
generally followed by:
N.C. 286 from the state line to Franklin;
N.C. 285 from Franklin to Dillsboro;
N.C. 10 (proposed U.S. 270; later U.S. 19) to Whittier and
N.C. 107 to the gap.
By 1927, 286 south of Franklin was switched to N.C. 285.
U.S. 441 did not come into being until 1951. Before it existed, today's 441 was signed only as U.S. 23 from the Georgia line to Dillsboro. Getting to Newfound Gap from Dillsboro required taking southbound (westbound?) U.S. 19A/N.C. 107 to Whittier and following N.C. 107 to U.S. 19. You'd backtrack north on 19/107 and then stay on 107, which was the old designation for Newfound Gap Road, into the Smokies. In other words, you'd take U.S. 23 to 107, except that the stretch of today's 441 immediately south of Cherokee didn't exist. Newfound Gap Road was dually signed as 441/107 for a short time in the 1950s, but the 107 designation was removed in 1956.
The bypass around Franklin was built in the early 1970s, and open by 1974.
The stretch of 74/441 northwest of Dillsboro was widened in the early 1980s, and at the time was called U.S. 19A/441; 74 hadn't been routed west of Asheville yet.
Widening of most of 441 south of the Smokies, including construction of the bypass to the west side of Cherokee, was undertaken in the late 1980s and 1990s. U.S. 441 was not completely widened through Jackson County south of Dillsboro until the mid-1990s.
Before the 441 bypass west of Cherokee was built, 441 and 19 were signed in opposite directions when they were multiplexed: 441 northbound was 19 southbound. Nowadays 441 and 19 are multiplexed further west, and are signed in the same direction. The "wrong-way" signing was also present before U.S. 19A was replaced by U.S. 74: 441 north was 19A south, and vice versa.
|Comments:||Today, 441 has two distinct personalities,
or three if you count the few miles of tourist facilities in Cherokee.
The southern stretch, between the Georgia line and Cherokee, is one of
the more enjoyable touring roads you'll find. The road isn't that twisty
anymore; over the years it's been safety-sanitized for your protection.
There's only one traffic light (near Dillsboro) south of the Smokies, and
the traffic is moderate enough to maintain a good cruise. For these reasons,
the spectacular scenery is quite easily taken in, although the mountains
are dotted with private homes and are thus more adulterated than what you'll
find in the Smokies or on the BRP.
Through Cherokee, one must still endure the strip of motels and tourist traps near the park entrance. At least with the bypass around the west side of Cherokee, it's not as bad as coming in from U.S. 19 through Maggie Valley.
Heading south out of the Smokies, 441 is signed for Atlanta, some 160 miles away (photo above). This is probably so for two good reasons: many tourists drive long distances to get to the Smokies, and even though nearby U.S. 19 goes into Atlanta, U.S. 441 (to U.S. 23 and I-985) gets there faster. Similarly, "Great Smoky Mtns" or something similar is used routinely on guide signs for northbound 441.
U.S. 441 crosses the ECD in Georgia, which calls it the Blue Ridge Divide instead.
The hillclimb up to Newfound Gap (that's 441's "other" personality) can get crowded, especially in the summer and fall. But there's still good reason to drive it; not even all the people can mar the scenery at the top. If it's any consolation, Newfound Gap Road is definitely twister and probably more congested on the Tennessee side than on the N.C. side. Twisty roads with lots of traffic are bad, very bad. Furthermore, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg outkitsch Cherokee.
I assume Newfound Gap Road is maintained by the National Park Service, not the N.C. or Tennessee DOTs. At the state line, large white-on-brown signs announce Newfound Gap and smaller white-on-brown signs read, "Entering (name of state)". The font on the signs is the standard NPS serif sign font. N.C.'s and Tennessee's traditional state line signs are not used.
|Ideas:||I have no compaints about this road in N.C., except for the inevitable mess of Cherokee. But get Georgia to widen the northernmost stretch of 23/441 that's still two lanes; perhaps a bypass could be built around Clayton and Dillard. Also, get rid of the traffic lights elsewhere on 23/441 in Georgia. These are the only missing links to having a high-speed, direct road between Atlanta and the Smokies. OK, I'll stop talking about Georgia now.|
|Business U.S. 441 3 miles|
|The Road:||Goes through the center of Franklin, Macon County.
Main Street and Palmer Street, among other roads, through town. Was bypassed in the early 1970s.
|Business U.S. 441 about 1 mile|
|The Road:||A mile or so through the center of Cherokee,
Was the 441 well into the 1980s; the bypass was built to the west.