The Little Pigeon River, which got its name because the birds seemed to favor the area, has long been at the center of Pigeon Forge’s beauty and history. Little Pigeon River is located entirely within Sevier County, Tennessee and is made up of a series of streams which flow together on the dividing line between Tennessee and North Carolina inside the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The river is subdivided with three separate tributaries: East, Middle, and West. The East Prong is paralleled for most of its length by State Route 416, and the Middle Prong emerges from the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Six miles of mostly gravel road follow the river and its tributaries into the upper Greenbrier area. The Greenbrier area of the park is renowned for its wildflowers.
The West Prong is far better known because it drains the major tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The West Prong of the river has helped to provide the area with fresh ground corn and wheat from the Old Mill located along its banks. This is a central meeting place for the community and place to enjoy the scenic view that makes Pigeon Forge so special.
In the old days, the Mill was the heart of the community and served as a gathering spot for villagers. During the Civil War, looms were set up on the second floor to make woven articles for soldiers. The area around the Old Mill was first settled by pioneers in the early 1800s. William Love dammed up the Little Pigeon River and began construction of the first building of the Old Mill. The mill has been in continuous daily operation since its completion in 1830. William Love utilized 40-foot-long, 14″-by-14″ Yellow Poplar logs, which are clearly visible even today. Huge river rocks serve as pillars to support the structure. This is one of the most photographed structures in Tennessee.
Besides the beauty and history of the Little Pigeon River, there are many activities on and in the river. People can enjoy White Water Rafting, Gatlinburg’s Annual River Raft Regatta, Fly Fishing, Tubing and countless other activities.