National Park

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

For the first time visitor, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be overwhelming.  So we are here to offer assistance. We want to share a little history and some insight into what the Park has to offer.

Let’s begin by taking you back in time. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park weaves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history and charm. From the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlements in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees in the 20th century. Though people have occupied these mountains since prehistoric times, it wasn’t until the 20th century that human activities began to profoundly affect the natural course of events here.

History of the Cherokee Indians, a branch of the Iroquois  Nation, can be traced back to this region over a thousand years. By the time Europeans came to explore and trade, the Cherokee lands covered most of the southeastern U.S.

The Cherokee adopted the Europeans tools and weapons changing their life from hunting for food to include hunting furs for trade. But these prosperous times soon came to an end for the Cherokee when gold was discovered in Georgia.  Due to political pressure, President Andrew Jackson conviscated Indian lands and forceably removed the Cherokee to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Many lost their lives in October 1838 on the journey that became known as the Trail of Tears.

Just prior to the removal a group of Cherokee separated themselves from the Cherokee Nation and hid out among the mountains. There are now around 11,000 Cherokee that live within the Indian Reservations of the park.

The first white settlers came in the late 1700s and found themselves in Cherokee territory. By this time the Cherokee had developed towns, maintained crops, and had political systems established.

Life was primitive for the early European settlers but that began to change as they learned to hunt and construct structures and fencing from the readily available timbers, growing food and raising livestock.  Much of the forest became farmland and pastures. The people attended church, farmed, took grain to the mill and began to live a rural lifestyle.

By the 1900’s logging towns started to spring up and the settlers started to become dependent on manufactured items. They were rapidly cutting away at the primeval forests until intervention came by the establishment of the GSMNP in 1934. Upon establishment of the park more than 1,200 land owners had to leave. They left behind buildings, mills, schools and churches. To date over 70 of these structures remain preserved by the Park.

Today visitors enjoy a variety of activities that can only be enjoyed amid the unsurpassed beauty of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Park is the most highly visited National Park in North America. The Park includes 500,000 acres with 800 miles of trails and 1,500 types of plants. It’s natural beauty is always unmatched with its offering of four distinct seasons.

Points of interest:

Over 30 species of salamanders live in the park.

The smoke-like fog that hangs over the Smoky Mountains comes from rain and evaporation from trees. On the high peaks of the Smokies, an average of 85 inches of rain falls each year, qualifying these upper elevation areas as temperate rain forests.

Scientists think that we only know about 17 percent of the plants and animals that live in the park, or about 17,000 species of a probable 100,000 different organisms

In the park’s high elevation are treeless expanses where dense thickets of shrubs such as mountain laurel, rhododendron, and sand myrtle grow. Known as “laurel slicks” and “hells” by early settlers, heath balds were most likely created by forest fires long ago.

Relics such as projectile points found within the park have been dated back 9,000 years by teams of scientists so proving that these mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years.