Law Enforcement

Helmets are required in NC, TN, GA.
SC law states helmets shall be worn by operators and passengers under age 21.


The 2014 General Elections brought a new Sheriff to Graham County. Danny Millsap has served the county previously as a deputy. Drugs continue to be a major problem for the county. Don’t be surprised to find a law enforcement road stop during your visit. These are not aimed at anyone in particular, just a common practice in our area. When stopped, be cooperative and you’ll be on your way quickly. Make sure you are equipped with your license, registration, and proof of insurance.

All of the local LEO’s are friendly and highly aware that this area is a tourism destination, especially for motorcycles. You won’t have a problem if you don’t bring a problem. Speed limits are radar enforced no matter who you are or what type of vehicle you are operating.


Steve Odom, Graham County Sheriff from 1998-2002, had a helicopter to enforce the speed limits (it is no longer in use in Graham County). While on routine helicopter patrol one afternoon in 1999 he spotted some sportbikes on 143 headed for the Cherohala. The bikers were obviously well over the limit. The Sheriff ordered the pilot to find a place to head-off the riders. The copter landed on the only spot available, a bridge just a few miles before the Cherohala. The sheriff was standing on the bridge when the cycles rounded the corner. The cyclists offered no excuses and the Sheriff let them off with just a warning. A year later the pilot, who is also an avid cyclist (he owns eight bikes including one of the nicest custom Harley’s I’ve ever seen), was at the CoT talking to a group of bikers when one of them told the story of the copter stopping his group on the backwoods bridge. The pilot heard him say that he was a Chief of Police from another town in North Carolina. The pilot then introduced himself and they all had a good laugh. This story has made the rounds in North Carolina law enforcement. What a coincidence.

By the way, the many horror stories circulated about Graham County Sheriff’s Office harrassing bikers during the BMW Rally back in 1997 were untrue. There were nineteen tickets issued county-wide to all vehicles that week-end (most were issued to sport bikes). One biker was arrested for indecent exposure. I’ve been informed recently of law enforcement harassment on the Tennessee side of the mountain during that week-end. I cannot comment one way or the other on these allegations as my contacts are only with the North Carolina law enforcement agencies. The Internet rumor of rival motorcycle gangs preparing to fight it out was never taken seriously by authorities.


Blount County has unmarked enforcement vehicles which are hard to spot. You will usually see the Blount County Sheriff’s cars on 129 along the Little Tennessee River straight-aways and sitting at the Tabcat Creek Bridge. Tennessee Sheriff and Highway Patrol units routinely patrol the Tail of the Dragon. At times enforcement is stepped up when a lot of complaints are made. During heavy enforcement, you can expect plain wrappers on the Dragon, speed clocking, road blocks for license/inspection, and numerous marked cars along US129. LEOs usually set-up in a straightaway. they will have radar and wave you in to write you up. Slow it down in the straights.

Heavy enforcement is sporadic, so we suggest you abide by the traffic laws at all times. there is often radar on US 129 along the lake. Regional Radar Map, Tail of the Dragon Radar Map


Radar, both static and moving, is active on the Cherohala North Carolina side, usually on the weekends or when complaints are called in about high speed riders. Be advised that many local volunteers firefighters/EMTs have radios in their vehicles and will report major violations such as passing on the double yellow and high speeds on all of the county roads. Speed limit on the North Carolina side is 45 mph …. on the Tennessee side it is 40 mph.


Other law enforcement agencies in the area include the TVA Police, Forest Service Officers, Park Police, Wildlife Officers, and Cherokee Tribal Police. These are federal cops and you had better be nice when you encounter one of them. They are not lurking around every corner, but you need to be aware. TVA is usually in the Fontana Dam area and often lets you off with a warning. The Cherokee Police patrol 143 between Robbinsville and the Cherohala Skyway. They have radar and sometimes set up a license check at the 143/143 Business intersection.