Smoky Mountain Money: Filming Location and Show Information

The cast of Smoky Mountain Money on National Geographic

The cast of Smoky Mountain Money on National Geographic (media photo by National Geographic)

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Who knows how the spark of inspiration is lit?

Certainly, humans have walked the Earth for thousands of years with a myriad of dreams, ideas and imagination floating on the rivers of electric synapses like an inner tube through the rapids. 

Why does inspiration strike one day where emptiness existed the day before? What happens when the same inspiration comes to different people in different places at the same time?

To put it another way: How can you go nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ woefully deficient in movies about a gigantic asteroid destroying the Earth and then have two, in 1998, show up at the same time?

It turns out the neural pathways to genius are ineffable. 

Speaking of ineffable, we have “Smoky Mountain Money”, the reality series.

“Smoky Mountain Money” is the lesser of two pseudo-reality shows set in the Appalachian Mountains about competition amongst wild American ginseng hunters. Both were filmed in 2013. And neither were exceptionally popular shows.

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What is the plot of Smoky Mountain Money?

“Smoky Mountain Money” – which aired on National Geographic – ran a single six-episode season. It featured teams of mountain folk – North Carolina ginseng hunters – in a loosely accounted competition to be king of the mountain. 

For the record, ginseng root can be quite valuable. Although, ginseng harvesting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is illegal.

Read Also: Picking this valuable root in the Smokies could result in jail time

The show’s main competition – “Appalachian Outlaws” – filmed its first season in 2013 as well and appeared on the History Channel. “Outlaws” got a second season for a total of 16 episodes.

Neither show leaves much of a legacy. “Outlaws” have a bigger post-show internet footprint. But neither struck the kind of chord that will resonate beyond their availability to be purchased on Amazon Prime. 

If you want to watch a nearly decade-old show about ginseng hunters struggling to deliver scripted lines and make it through obviously contrived plots, but only one, don’t go to “Smoky Mountain Money”. 

There are few among the 15 or so characters that are compelling at all. Carl “The Goat” Bateman is possibly the most charismatic among a charisma-deficient bunch. 

The Goat – called so not because he is the Greatest of All Time but because he’s kind of like an actual goat – has a gravelly delivery that is chiefly believable. He works with his son Jeremy McCoy.

Jeremy begins the series likably enough but ends as nothing more than a hot-headed bully in storylines designed to increase drama and keep viewers through the break. 

The Goat’s main rival is Ricky.

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Where was Smoky Mountain Money filmed?

The show’s motivation is that Ricky is driven to get back on top of the ginseng game in the hollows of North Carolina.

The exact filming location, other than the Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina, is not listed on the channel.

Ginseng is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and FloraWild. And it is illegal to harvest the plant in the Smoky Mountains. So don’t get any bright ideas on your next trip to the mountains (photo by nunawwoofy/

Does anything interesting ever happen on the show?

Ricky goes ginseng hunting with a pair of lackeys so nondescript there’s little point in learning their names.

Other teams include Cody – trying to raise money to get back into school to be a park ranger. And Matt, who’s saddled with a young partner named J.R. who producers clearly expected to be the reality-show villain.

J.R. succeeds in being tiresome and irritating but not in a compelling sort of way. They needed a better actor or a better villain. 

Matt spends most of the six-episode run giving J.R. last chances and ultimatums. None of which Matt, J.R. or anyone else seems to care about. 

The stakes are lower and less contrived on “Money” than “Outlaws”. But somehow “Money” remains the least believable of the two.

Is Smoky Mountain Money fake?

There are two fights – both featuring the McCoy kid – but there’s a lot of blustering, posturing and dialogue along the lines of the following.

“J.R. can [*] my behind” and “Tell Old Ricky I said [*] one if you see him.”

Both were delivered by Carl. 

Each episode begins with the narrator – who doesn’t have the cachet of having played a Terminator-like Robert Patrick, the narrator of “Outlaws” – delivering the following line:

“There’s a saying among the people of the Smoky Mountains. Be careful what you take from the mountains or the mountains will take you.”

I would be shocked if that was remotely near a real thing. I’ve never heard anything like it. 

It doesn’t even sound like an old saying. 

Just in case, I Googled it. Like most of the show, they made it up. 

Smoky Mountain Money’s cheesiest moments

There’s no easy way to rank the show’s most ridiculous moments.

I wouldn’t have thought any reality show could have more contrived situations than “Outlaws” but “Smoky Mountain Money” …  whoo boy. 

There was a whole plotline about Matt – who has the personality of chewed tree bark – suddenly developing a deep and abiding belief in curses.

Shortly thereafter, Matt tells the petulant J.R. they’re on a ridge named after the Kirkwood Bushwhackers – a gang of ruffians and deserters who preyed on families whose men were away due to the war. And it is there that Matt is suddenly attacked by a hive of bees. 

Even running through the woods, getting the full Thomas J. treatment, Matt can barely muster up enough chutzpah to deliver a semi-competent reading of the line: 

“It’s the curse!” 

Somehow, that wasn’t the most unbelievable moment of the show. 

After a hard rain, Brian spots some ginseng across a “swollen” stream that looks a lot like a regular old small river. Somehow, Ricky, who has spent weeks talking to the camera about his passion for hunting ‘seng, gets religion and decides that wading across the stream is too big a risk. 

Brian – who wanted to quit when it was RAINING, fords the mighty waters. On his way back, he “slips” floating down some gentle rapids. But he acts as if they were the very edge of Class 5 rapids. 

Brian flounders his way to a calm pool, protected by a tree and its roots on the shore. He then proceeds to thrash about like Little Jon in “Robinhood Men in Tights”.

How does the show end?

Spoiler alert: …

At the end, everyone except J.R. gathers for an end-of-the-season bonfire. All slights are forgiven, including McCoy’s pummeling of Cody from the high ground which left Cody limping and cost him a few hundred dollars when a prized ginseng root was maimed. 

Maybe J.R. is as unpleasant as producers made him out to be.

What happened to the cast members?

I wanted to do a where-are-they-now. However, most of the cast either doesn’t have much of an internet presence or their presence is under another name. 

Unlike “Outlaws”, which had some truly disturbing people in the cast, it seems that most of the “Money” cast has faded back into regular life.

Carl recently promoted his band on his Facebook page which seems about right. 

According to news reports, Cody White was brutally attacked in 2016 at his aunt’s home in Robbinsville, NC.

Reportedly, he was attacked by a man who had charges dropped against him in 2016 after a video surfaced of him being repeatedly tased by deputies.

According to reports, White suffered an 11-inch cut from his lip all the way around to his spine. His aunt claimed he passed away at the scene but medical personnel was able to revive him.

In March of 2021, the attacker was found guilty.

It’s another sad story of a reality show “star” from the mountains. Seems like that’s about all that came from either “Outlaws” or “Money”. 


Maybe it was just desperation after all.  

How to watch Smoky Mountain Money

“Smoky Mountain Money” originally aired on the National Geographic Channel.

It was not renewed for a second season. There will be no new episodes in the foreseeable future. It can however be viewed on most streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube.

Have you watched “Smoky Mountain Money”? What are your favorite Smoky Mountain-themed TV shows? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for LLC – the parent company of and

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