The Dragon Road US Hwy 129 Deals GapThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
Photo credit 828Vibes
The Dragon, also known as Deals Gap is US Highway 129
The Dragon, also known as US Highway 129 at Deals Gap, near Robbinsville, NC, holds a captivating history that intertwines with the development of the region and the growing popularity of motor sports.
The challenging terrain of the southern Appalachian Mountains, including the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains, made the area one of the last to be settled in North Carolina. The Dragon follows a path that was once an old Indian trail, showcasing the region’s rich natural and cultural history. This area saw an influx of settlers during the late 1800s, leading to the establishment of Graham County in 1872. The construction of the Cheoah Dam and powerhouse began in 1916, which later spurred the development of roads in the area, including what would become US 129 by 1931.
Originally designated as TN72 on the Tennessee side and NC288 (now NC28) in North Carolina, the Dragon was renumbered as US129 in 1934. For decades, it remained a lightly traveled route, mainly used by locals and occasional tourists. The Deals Gap area, named likely for an early settler family, became more popular with the growth of motorcycling and sports car driving. The establishment of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and initiatives by enthusiasts like Doug Snavely in the 1990s significantly increased the Dragon’s popularity among motor sports enthusiasts.
The Dragon is renowned for its 318 curves over an 11-mile stretch on the Tennessee side, with no development along this stretch due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This makes it a unique and challenging road for motorcyclists and sports car drivers. The road’s infamy also comes from its dangers, with several traffic fatalities recorded between 2000 and 2017. Despite these dangers, it remains a sought-after destination for thrill-seekers.
The Dragon’s cultural significance was further highlighted when it served as a filming location for movies like “The Fugitive” and “Thunder Road,” adding to its mystique and allure. Today, the Dragon at Deals Gap is not just a road but a symbol of adventure and the rich history of the southern Appalachians.