The story below is an excerpt from our January/February 2017 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
When I was a park ranger in Great Smoky Mountains National Park I used to get questions from visitors about what to see. These were good questions and I, along with other staff, directed folks to familiar places like Cades Cove, Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome and Laurel Falls.
But now and then I’d get someone who wanted some lesser-known places, and a devilish temptation would come over me to say to them, Hey, have you seen Mollie’s Butt lately?
My better judgment prevented me from mentioning such places, however. But the fact remains that in the Smokies there are some really curious place-names which actually appear on United States Geographical Survey topographic maps.
Place-names in the Smokies range from Cherokee-inspired locations like Cataloochee or Kanati Fork, to designations based on Smoky Mountain history, such as Mt. Kephart—and others in between. One can spend hours with a magnifying glass perusing the maps and come up with some fascinating finds. “Holy Butt,” for example, is not too far from the busy Sugarlands Visitor Center. But may not compare to Mollie’s Butt and Coon Butt.
Yes, these are officially marked locations. And of course “butt” does not refer to an anatomical part, but is a local term generally used to describe an end of a ridge or mountain. There are a fair number of other official “butts” in the Smokies, such as Butt Mountain, Cobb Butt, Rich Butt Mountain and my favorite, Big Butt.
Even the Devil gets a fair number of references in the Smokies. There’s a Devils Den, a Devils Chute, Devils Bench, Devils Tater Patch, Devils Courthouse, Devils Nest Creek and a Devil Branch.
These designations are not monuments to Satan; rather, they are references to the harshness of the landscape.