Fall in Love with Maggie Valley

Elk were once abundant throughout the United States, but by the mid-1800’s, over-hunting and habitat loss wiped out eastern elk herds. In 2001, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Park Service and other partners joined together to restore wild elk to the Smoky Mountains in the Cataloochee Valley near Maggie Valley. The initial 52 elk that were released have grown to a herd of almost 200.

 

Viewing the Elk

Most elk are located in the Cataloochee Valley area in the southeastern section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the best times to view elk are usually early morning and late evening, elk may also be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms.  As the elk have begun to migrate out of the park you can frequently see elk in and around Maggie Valley.

 

The Elk Seasons

Winter: Elk wear a two-layer coat during the colder months. Long guard hairs on the top repel water and a soft, woolly underfur keeps them warm. Elk may move from the high country to valleys to feed.

 

Spring: Most elk shed their antlers in March. The antlers, which are rich in calcium, are quickly eaten by rodents and other animals.

 

Summer: Most calves are born in early June. Male elk roll in mud wallows to keep cool and avoid insect pests.

 

Fall: The elk’s fall breeding season is known as the rut (mid September through the end of October). The mating call of bulls is called a bugle and can be heard during the breeding season. Even if the elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge.

 

Safety

When elk are present, federal regulations require that you remain at least 150 feet away and at a distance that does not disturb them. Failure to do so can result in fines and/or arrests. Even if the elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge.

 

Directions

From Maggie Valley, take US 19 (Soco Road) east toward Waynesville. Turn left onto US 276 North (Jonathan Creek Road) Go about six miles and turn left onto Cove Creek Road, the last left turn before coming to I-40 intersection. When the road forks, keep right. Cove Creek is a steep, ten-mile, narrow, curving mountain road. There is a three-mile paved section leading up and over Cove Creek Gap, and then winding down the other side of the mountain. When you again reach pavement, turn left and enjoy your easy descent into the valley. The road can be treacherous after heavy rains or with snow. Click on the icon below for Google map directions.

cataloochee Valley Elk watching
Cataloochee Valley Elk

Map/Directions to Cataloochee Valley

MAGGIE VALLEY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

P.O. BOX 279, MAGGIE VALLEY, NC 28751

828-926-1686 • 800-624-4431

 

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