GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (WATE) — If you’re planning a trip to the Smokies, specifically Cades Cove, you are going to have to reschedule. The access road leading drivers there closed Sunday night.

Laurel Creek Road, the seven-mile route from Townsend Wye to Cades Cove, is closed through Saturday, Feb. 29. This full closure is needed while crews repair Bote Mountain Tunnel’s drainage system and seal cracks.

GSMNP officials say Bote Mountain Tunnel was constructed in 1948 and hasn’t had any serious rehabilitation work since then and without repairs, leaks would create issues within the concrete and cause ice hazards in the winter.

Park officials say crews are doing temperature-sensitive work during the winter when visitation is lower.

There are signs alerting drivers to the closure as they get further and further out from Townsend.

“We came today to spend the day at Cades Cove. Cades Cove was probably number one on my list of course, but it’s just a bump in the road. No big deal,” said Neil Anderson from Meridian, Mississippi.

Anderson and Charlene Mathena are spending the week in the Smokies.

“I was just excited because I thought I was going to get to see some wildlife. He had said that you would probably really have a great chance of seeing wildlife here, so now maybe I won’t be able to see any,” added Mathena.

Road blocks, orange cones and signs were up on Laurel Creek Road.

“It’s disappointing, very disappointing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here but it’s one of my favorite places,” said Dale Rathe from Omaha, Nebraska.

On Monday, Rathe had to stop and find a new route out of town. He hoped to visit Cades Cove with his family while they take an RV trip, “I understand why they would do it in the winter time, obviously more advantageous and less people are disrupted.”

Even though Cades Cove is closed through the end of February, visitors say they plan on coming back.

“It’s serenity and nature at its finest. Just beautiful here, absolutely beautiful,” said Rathe.

Trails are still open but park rangers say it’s a 14-mile round trip trek just to get access to Cades Cove loop and with the shorter winter days, it wouldn’t allow much time to enjoy it. Park rangers suggest hiking other trails throughout the park during this closure.

Periodic single-lane closures will happen between March 1st and June 15th as crews finish tunnel repairs and repave that area.

Cades Cove Campground, which is normally open during the winter, is closed through March 5th. Park officials say to accommodate winter campers, Elkmont Campground and Smokemont Campground in North Carolina will remain open year-round.

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