A beautiful historical grist mill from the late 1800’s that is still operational.
Just North of the Cherokee Indian Reservation; in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of Western North Carolina, is the historic grist mill, Mingus Mill. Although this picturesque mill was built in 1886, it is still operational at its original location along Mingus Creek. It is staffed by knowledgeable caretakers who know everything about the mill and are more than happy to share this rich history with visitors. Mingus Mill is very beautiful and a great roadside site to see.
Mingus Mill is located just off highway 441 a little north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center or the western end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a popular spot with a large parking lot that offers sufficient space most days. It is open 9am- 5pm daily from mid-March though mid-November although they also open during the Thanksgiving weekend. There are restroom facilities at the parking area along with a drinking fountain. Mingus Mill is only minutes from Cherokee or about 75 minutes from Asheville North Carolina.
Mingus Mill can’t be seen from the parking area but there is a very short trail, mostly paved, that leads to the mill site that is located on the other side of Mingus Creek. It is just far enough away from the parking area to make your experience at the mill perfect as you can picture the early days of the mill, in the late 1800’s, free from cars and today’s modern conveniences. Look for the informative signboard at the parking lot, next to the restrooms, and the paths to the mill start there. You cross over Mingus Creek and then you get your first view of the mill. As you walk up the wide path, you will see the millrace that pulls water from the creek into the mill turbine.
Unlike many other mills, Mingus Mill is a turbine mill. There isn’t a waterwheel present as the water is routed under the mill where there is a cast iron turbine that is used to power the machinery inside the building. At the time of its construction, it was one of the most advanced mills in the area. It was originally designed and built by the millwright Sion Thomas Early for John Mingus. In 1934, the Mingus family sold the mill to the National Park Service that restored it in 1937. It was closed during World War II and eventually reopened in 1968.
Today it is a beautiful historical and cultural working attraction that shouldn’t be missed if you are in the area.
Be sure to walk up trail next to the sluice to Mingus Creek to see how the water is pulled from the creek and brought down to the mill. There are also plenty of exhibits and informative plaques inside the mill that explain how a mill works. You can also purchase flour and cornmeal at the small counter located inside the mill.
Don’t come to Mingus Mill thinking you are going to see it real quick, the beauty of the mill and its surroundings will make you want to linger a little longer than you might have expected.