Reprinted from the Norris Bulletin
The Norris Freeway is among 64 nominations under consideration by the U.S. Department of Transportation to receive federal recognition as a National Scenic Byway.
Scenic Byways tell unique stories about the landscape, and historic and recreation resources that unfold before byway travelers.
Currently, 150 roadways across the United States have received this Federal designation. The recent call for nominations marks a reopening of the program, which has not accepted nominations since 2008.
Norris Freeway has a unique history. Our East Tennessee region was blessed to have had forward-thinking TVA engineers during the 1930s. When Norris Dam was selected as the first location for a dam to control the waters to the Tennessee River system, a railroad spur was considered to transport concrete, steel and related building materials from Coal Creek (now Rocky Top) to the dam site. TVA engineers essentially said “Whoa.” They went on to say a Freeway could be built to Halls and onward to TVA offices in Knoxville for the same cost as a 5-mile railroad spur. Thank good-ness for those engineers.
TVA’s engineering makes the Freeway a pleasure to drive. They created a spiraling set of curves that were designed to flow with the hilly landscapes. The Freeway designation was made because, with the exception of Emory Road, there were no four-way intersections, thus limiting traffic conflicts. You may also have noticed that there are no billboards nor road-side commercial stands. Those uses were prohibited in the land purchase agreements. The natural landscape is the result of the 250 to 350-foot wide right-of-way that was created to protect the scenery along the Freeway.
Norris Freeway was nominated on the basis of its recreational and associated scenic values, including historical places to visit. Those include:
Norris Dam State Park with its trails, cabins, campgrounds, pool and amphitheater.
The Dam that created a 34,000-acre lake, 809 miles of shoreline and is now home to 22 marinas.
The River Bluff Trail, a local version of what can be found in the Smokies, and the Songbird Trail, perhaps the most gentle, walking and jogging pathway in east Tennessee (and the coolest summer loop, given the chilly 50-degree temperature of the Clinch River).
The river access points that en-able Trout fishers to wade out and land a new Brown Trout record (28 plus pounds) and kayakers to head downstream.
The Norris Watershed, with its roughly 30 miles of hiking, moun-tain biking and equestrian trail.
National Register of Historic Places resources, including Norris Dam, the east side of Norris Dam State Park, and the Town of Norris, which was a model city created by Museum resources, including the Lenoir Museum, the Rice Grist Mill, and Crosby Threshing Barn, and the Museum of Appalachia.
The Norris Freeway nomination includes side trips that branch from the Freeway (US 441) to various places of interest: Route 116 to historical mining sites in Coal Creek (Rocky Top) and Briceville, including Coal Creek War Sites and the Mining Museum.
TN 116 over Windrock Mountain or down the beautiful valley route of Frost Bottom Road (TN 330), both leading to Brushy Mountain Prison and “October Sky” movie set and historic sites in Oliver Springs.
TN 61 to historic sites in Andersonville such as those of 19th century Andersonville Institute and onward to Big Ridge State Park.
Route 170 (Raccoon Valley Road) for visits to Oak Ridge including Melton Hill Lake and the various Secret City museums.
Maynardville Highway/Broad-way (US 441) southwestward to Downtown Knoxville with its early TVA offices, Market Square, Gay Street, museums and Old City historic sites.
The Norris Planning Commission and City Council embraced the concept of pursuing the Byway Designation. The Norris Museum with its historical documents and photographs were outstanding resources in preparing the nomination. If awarded, National Scenic Byway designation would pave the way for funding to receive national marketing support and access to federal grants through the Nation-al Scenic Byway Program.