Great Smoky Mountains National Park   1 comment

Great Smoky Mountains 00Where Is It: This large park is on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

There are 4 visitor centers:

Cades Cove Visitor Center: Open every day except Christmas Day.

Inside the park near the mid-point of the 11-mile, one-way Cades Cove Loop Road.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center: Open every day except Christmas Day

Inside the park, 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC, on US-441.

Sugarlands Visitor Center: Open every day except Christmas Day.

Inside the park, 2 miles south of Gatlinburg on US-441

Clingmans Dome Visitor Contact Station: Open April – November

At the Clingmans Dome trailhead, 7 miles off US-441 on the Clingmans Dome Road.

The Birth: From National Parks Traveler:

Nearly all the families that owned land now within the borders of the park were forced to sell their land to the federal government and move elsewhere. Today, their legacy remains in the form of the preserved/restored log cabins, barns, frame churches, and other historic structures that tourists see in and near the park, and especially at Cades Cove. Another legacy is a lingering dislike for federal government interference in people’s lives. Some people even think it’s OK to hunt bears and other game in the park, since their granddaddies did “before the federal government kicked them off their land.”

Well, that’s not exactly how the government set out to create the park, but displacements did occur. The idea for a park in this area was first advanced in 1899 and again in 1923. Congress finally provided initial authorization (administration and protection authority) for a park in 1926, but provided no federal money for the project. The task of acquiring the land would be left to the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. The strong fund-raising effort in the 1920s – especially in the Knoxville and Asheville areas – is a great credit to the many people in both states who worked hard to get the park. Not enough money could be raised, however, and the campaign would have failed had it not been for a last-minute $5 million donation by park benefactor John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Congress finally authorized the full development of the park on June 15, 1934.

It Happened Here: From National Parks Traveler:

There was a great deal of opposition to establishing the park. Many people saw the project as a government threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles. A good many wanted a national forest created so that logging and hunting could continue. There was considerable resentment about the way the land was acquired. It was not like establishing a park in Western states, where it was possible to simply change the status of land (such as a national forest or military installation) that the federal government already owned.

Timber companies owned about 85 percent of the land in the Smokies. Although these companies had a huge investment in timber, railroads, company towns, etc., it was a fairly simple matter to buy their holdings. This was not the case for the remaining 15 percent of the land. This consisted of land owned by thousands of smallholders (predominantly farmers), most of whom did not want to leave even if they got fair market value for their land. Nearly all the approximately 5,665 people who were displaced deeply resented being forced out. Most complained that they were lied to, mistreated, and cheated. Some were allowed to stay on lifetime leases, with the land reverting to the government when they died.

Most of the land that was roughed up by logging, farming, mining, and related activities has reverted to forest and meadow since the 1930s. Few park visitors are even aware that much of the landscape they admire today had a derelict and pretty well beat up appearance within living memory.

Size: The park is just over 815 square miles.

# Visitors: 9,685,829 in 2012. This National Park is # 1 in attendance, with July typically having the largest attendance and January the smallest.

Plants: There are over 1,600 species of flowering plants in the Park. There are also 100 native tree species and over 100 shrub species.

Animals: From the Park’s website:

Protected in the park are some 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.

The symbol of the Smokies, the American Black Bear, is perhaps the most famous resident of the park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides the largest protected bear habitat in the East. Though populations are variable, biologists estimate approximately 1,500 bears live in the park, a density of approximately two bears per square mile.

Choices: The park straddles the Tennessee/North Carolina border, with about half of the park in each state.  “Gateway” towns have sprung up to serve the huge numbers of tourists that visit each year. Townsend is the gateway to the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop road.

On the Tennessee side, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge (Dollywood) and Sevierville (outlet malls) each offer unique experiences. Cherokee, NC offers many experiences with Indian culture, from museums to festivals to theater.

Fees: There are no entrance fees to this National Park.

Staying There: There are back country and front country (“car camping”) sites available. There is a hike-in lodge available as well: Le Conte Lodge, which is at 6,400′ elevation. Reservations required!

Contact Info:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 436-1200

Current Issues: From

Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the Southeast wasn’t named for its smog, but it is one of many parks seriously affected by the problem. Air quality issues originate outside the parks. At Great Smoky, power plant and industrial emissions are blown by winds to the southern Appalachians and trapped there by the mountains.rican road trip.

Don’t Miss This: From National Parks Traveler:

A strong argument could be made that hiking is what the Appalachian Mountains were designed for. Just look at those mountains! They’re steep and rumpled, creased by valleys, cut by streams, and thickly forested.

Despite their appearance, in Great Smoky you’ll find gentle paths for short family strolls, as well as long-distance routes that will satisfy backpackers for days on end.

While the park currently has 803 miles of maintained trail, there once were closer to 900 miles of trails stitched over the mountains and up and down the drainages. So treasured are those hundreds of miles by local hardcore hikers that they came up with a club, the 900 Miler Association, that hands out patches to those who can demonstrate they’ve covered all those miles.

Fortunately, you don’t have to make the entire circuit in one season.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail might be the most well-known of the park’s hiking trails. The footpath that meanders from northern Maine to Georgia roams the spine of Great Smoky, crossing grassing balds and heavily vegetated mountain flanks.


National Park Service: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park Service: Campsites & Trail Map

10 Beautiful Views You Don’t Want To Miss

Barbara Whitaker: Great Smoky Mountains

Alice A Kemp: The Great Smoky Mountains

Posted October 30, 2013 by henrymowry in National Parks

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