Located in the broad flat plain of Tuckaleechee Cove, Townsend is a world apart from Pigeon Forge  and Gatlinburg . This park gateway, which provides quick access to Cades Cove  and the Little River Road, seems to have the proportions just right: There is still a lot of undisturbed green space surrounding a few hotels, restaurants, and the only heritage center  this side of the Smokies.
Outfitters rent tubes for floating down the Little River, and Tuckaleechee Caverns  are nearby for underground exploring.
Recent archaeological digs found evidence of human settlement in the Tuckaleechee Cove as many as 10,000 years ago. During the early 20th century, Townsend was the end of the railroad line; timber cut from forests inside what is now the national park was floated down the river and loaded onto railcars here in Townsend.