GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established by
Congress in 1934 and is the largest national park in the Eastern United States,
consisting of over 500,000 acres of wilderness in the Appalachian Highlands of
North Carolina and Tennessee. It encompasses over 800 square miles, and it is
the most popular of our national parks with over 9 million visitors per year.
The Park offers panoramic views, many miles of unspoiled mountains, lush
forests and tumbling mountain streams like those found by the early American
Settlers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for the multitude
and the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient
mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian Mountain
The Great Smoky Mountains are a small portion of the 2,000
mile long Appalachian Mountain Range that extends from Georgia to Maine. The
Smokies are among the tallest mountains in the Appalachian chain, with
elevations ranging within the Park from 840 feet at Abrams Creek to 6,643 feet
at Clingmans Dome, the third tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. The
rainfall in the high country of the Great Smokies averages over 85 inches per
year, and feeds over 2,000 miles of rushing mountain streams and rivers that
flow through the park, including Chambers Creek, Eagle Creek, Forney Creek,
Hazel Creek, Lands Creek, Nolands Creek, Pilkeys Creek, Twenty Mile Creek, and
the Oconoluftee River. Over 700 miles of those waterways support more than 50
native fish populations, including the native Brook Trout. The elevation
gradient presents many picturesque waterfalls in the streams throughout the
Smokies that are a big attraction to park visitors.
The temperate, deciduous forest of the Great Smoky Mountains
is home to and protects 66 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds,
over 50 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.
The most commonly seen mammals are bear, deer, groundhog, chipmunk and
squirrel. There are 85 species of migratory birds that visit the Park
seasonally and 120 species that nest in the Great Smokies. Thirty birds that
are listed as "Species of Concern" breed in the Park, making the Smokies an
important source for repopulating bird species that are declining in numbers in
areas outside the park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the
greatest diversity of salamanders of anywhere on earth. The most famous
resident of the Park, and the symbol of the Smokies, is the American Black Bear
with an estimated population of about 1800. Extirpated species include bison,
elk, mountain lion, and the gray wolf. Some native species previously
eradicated have been re-introduced to the Park including the river otter, the
elk, the red wolf, and the Peregrine Falcon. Visitors have the best opportunity
to see wildlife in open areas of the Park like Cataloochee Valley and Cades
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its
great diversity of plant life. The variations in elevation, rainfall,
temperature, and geology in the Park provide ideal habitat for over 5,400
species of plants that have been identified, including nearly 1500 species of
flowering plants, 100 native tree species, and over 100 native shrub species.
Ephemeral wildflowers bloom profusely in the deciduous forests of the Park in
early Spring before the trees grow their leafs. This spectacular display of
flowering color against a still barren forest is truly a spectacular site.
Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, & Flame Azalea shrubs present extravagant
displays of beautiful flowers from mid-June to mid-July. Autumn brings a parade
of Purple Astor, Goldenrod, and other late bloomers to complete the floral
display of the Season.
Access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is
provided to motorists traveling U.S. Highway 441 (known in the Park as the
Newfound Gap Road) between Cherokee, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The New Found Gap, located near the center of the Park, (5,048 feet in
elevation) on highway 441 is half way between the Sugarlands Visitor Center in
Tennessee, and the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in North Carolina, and offers
spectacular long range views of the Park. The Appalachian Trail crosses the
Great Smoky Mountains at Newfound Gap. This popular route through the Park
offers long-range panoramic views of this spectacular mountain range. The
"smoky" vapor for which the mountains are named can be seen draping the ridge
tops and hanging over the valleys. The thin blue haze or "smoke" is created by
moisture from the park's lush vegetation. Visitors can take walks on any of the
over 800 miles of hiking trails maintained by the Park. Walking and hiking are
popular ways for visitors to see the wildflowers close up, to smell the scent
of evergreens, to hear the sounds of birdsongs and cascading streams, and to
experience a personal sense of the harmony of the natural wilderness
environment that is preserved in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK HAS 3 VISITOR
The OCONOLUFTEE VISITOR CENTER is located one mile
north of Cherokee, North Carolina and is open daily except Christmas. This
center provides an excellent presentation of the early cultural history of the
Great Smoky Mountains. The Mountain Farm Museum includes an old homestead
located near the Visitor Center that is a recreation of a late 19th century
mountain farm. It consists of a complete collection of authentic log
structures, including a house, barn, corncrib, sorghum molasses mill, and
blacksmith shop that were moved from their original locations throughout the
National Park to this exhibit so that visitors can see a complete early
American farm. Visitors can walk through and around the buildings and get a
very real sense of how it would have been to live in the Great Smoky Mountains
in the days when the country was first settled. This homestead would have been
an early American settlers dream come true!
The CADES COVE VISITOR CENTER is located in the Cades
Cove area of the Park and is open daily, except in winter when it is open only
on weekends. This center provides an excellent presentation of the early
cultural history of the Great Smoky Mountains. An old Grist Mill, Old Homes,
Churches, Barns and other old displays have been preserved to represent an
isolated farming community of the 1800's for the enjoyment of Park visitors.
One can get a very real sense of the community aspects of early American
settlement in Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains.
The SUGARLANDS VISITOR CENTER is located two miles
south of Gatlinburg, Tennessee on U.S. Highway 441 and is open daily except
Christmas. This center focuses on natural history and has very interesting and
educational displays on the Parks plants and animals. The Center is open
POINTS OF INTEREST IN THE GREAT SMOKY
This valley covering 6800 acres near
Gatlinburg provides an understanding of the natural and cultural history of the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. About 2400 acres of Cades Cove are open
fields that are surrounded by forests with mountains towering 5500 feet.
In Cades Cove the Park Service has successfully preserved
the cultural history of the early settlement of the Great Smoky Mountains for
all visitors to enjoy. There are several historic buildings dating to the
nineteenth century, including the Peter Cable Grist Mill, The Becky Cable
House, 3 churches, barns, and pioneer log cabins. The Cove is rich in cultural
History. The Geneology and History of the early settlers of the Cove can be
found in the many books sold in the Cades Cove Visitor Center Book Store.
The 11 mile long Cades Cove Loop Trail that winds one-way
through the meadowlands and forests of Cades Cove is popular with visitors.
Wildlife is abundant in the cove, and easy to observe from this road. It is
common to see deer, woodchucks, and wild turkey. Sometimes visitors are lucky
enough to see a black bear.
Cataloochee was the largest
settlement in the Smokies. Today it is a popular location for viewing the Elk
that were re-introduced to the Park in 2001 and 2002. The Elk graze in the
fields and can be observed most days throughout the year.
Clingmans Dome rises 6,643 feet. It
is the highest peak in the Smokies and the second highest peak east of the
Mississippi River. A forest of spruce and fir trees covers the top of the
mountain. Visitors can walk a ½ mile paved pathway to the 54-foot tall
observation tower where they are treated to a magnificent, 360-degree vista of
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park surrounding Clingmans Dome. Sunrises
and Sunsets from this point are truly spectacular. Take a sweater if you get
cold easily, because the high elevation means that the temperature will be cool
at the Dome even in Summer.
The Mingus Mill is a large
water-powered mill that is still in operation for grinding corn into meal using
19th Century equipment. From mid-April through October, visitors enjoy watching
the giant mill in operation, and can buy cornmeal and flour for later
CAMPGROUNDS IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
DEEP CREEK CAMPGROUND
Deep Creek offers
recreational activities for the entire family including camping, hiking trails,
bicycle riding trails, swimming, tubing & trout fishing. It is located
about 2 miles from Bryson City.
Smoke Mont offers
recreational activities for the entire family including camping, hiking trails,
bicycle riding trails, horseback riding trails, swimming, & trout fishing.
It is located just North of Cherokee, North Carolina on Highway 441.
DIRECTIONS TO THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL
PARK FROM THE NANTAHALA RIVER GORGE:
To travel to the Deep Creek Area of the Great Smoky
Mountains take Highway 19/74 East about 11 miles, take the Bryson City exit and
follow the signs to Deep Creek. The Park Boundary is located a few miles
outside of Bryson City.
To Travel to Smokemont Area take Highway 19/74 East about
15 miles to the Cherokee/Great Smoky Mountains exit where you access Highway
441 North that takes you through Cherokee and to Gatlinburg through the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park.