Trails Committee Uncovers Moonshiner Site Near Wildcat Park

Our Big Canoe Trails Committee uncovered some history on the Red Loop, a trail that’s adjacent to Wildcat Park. At mile marker #5 of the trail, the famous Wildcat moonshine still sits – but you would be forgiven for having missed it, as it has been covered by brush for the past few years.

Liz Scherer clearing out debris from the still. Photo by Mitch Waldman.

This winter, the Committee went to work clearing the site. They removed sweetgum saplings, branches, briars and more until the still was visible again. While they were at it, they also cleared a short access path from the trail to the still to allow for closer inspections; and they moved the Red Loop bench to the still side of the stream for a better view of the running water.

During the clearing, the Committee found something they didn’t anticipate: tin cans buried around the still. Curious about their origin, they contacted Jim Langford of the Northwest Archaeology Society. Langford determines that the rusted cans were from between 1900 and 1950, with a few from the ’60s and ’70s.

“He believes the finished moonshine was transported in jars versus cans,” said Mitch Waldman, one of the co-chairs of the Trails Committee. “With the tin cans, they were probably bringing food to eat while working.”

Langford explained that moonshiners needed to be on site for long hours when making a batch.

“[There was] lots of work to do and attention to detail like heat management and watching how the fermentation is going,” Langford said. “Then, once you had a batch moving, you had to stay until it was all done. Could be three days from start to finish”.

The southern Appalachian Mountains were a hotspot for the production and sale of moonshine. The Wildcat area was no different, as several of the homes in the area served as secret stores for the illicit spirit.

Both the cans and still are now available for viewing at the Red Loop Trail. For the sake or your safety and the preservation of our history, please leave the cans – especially the rusty ones – where they lie.

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