Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an American national park in the southeastern United States, with parts in North Carolina and Tennessee. The park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The park contains some of the highest mountains in eastern North America, including Clingmans Dome, Mount Guyot, and Mount Le Conte. The border between the two states runs northeast to southwest through the center of the park. The Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park on its route from Georgia to Maine. With 14.1 million visitors in 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States.

The park encompasses 522,419 acres (816.28 sq mi; 211,415.47 ha; 2,114.15 km2), making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are...Read more

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an American national park in the southeastern United States, with parts in North Carolina and Tennessee. The park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The park contains some of the highest mountains in eastern North America, including Clingmans Dome, Mount Guyot, and Mount Le Conte. The border between the two states runs northeast to southwest through the center of the park. The Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park on its route from Georgia to Maine. With 14.1 million visitors in 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States.

The park encompasses 522,419 acres (816.28 sq mi; 211,415.47 ha; 2,114.15 km2), making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) in the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina, and also in Townsend, Tennessee. The park is internationally recognized for its mountains, waterfalls, biodiversity, and forests. In addition, the park also preserves multiple historical structures that were part of communities occupied by early European-American settlers of the area.

The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934, and officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The Great Smoky Mountains was the first national park having land and other costs paid in part with federal funds; previous parks were funded wholly with state money or private funds. The park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988.

As the most visited national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park anchors a large tourism industry based in Sevier County, Tennessee adjacent to the park. Major attractions include Dollywood, the second-most visited tourist attraction in Tennessee, Ober Gatlinburg, and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Tourism to the park contributes an estimated $2.5 billion annually into the local economy.

For thousands of years, this region was occupied by successive cultures of indigenous peoples. The historic Cherokee had their homeland here, and occupied numerous towns in the river valleys on both sides of the Appalachian Mountains. Their first encounters with Europeans were as traders, mostly coming from the colonial Carolinas and Virginia.

European Americans did not begin to settle here until the late 18th and early 19th centuries.[1] Particularly because of their pressure to acquire land in the Deep South, in 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, beginning the process that eventually resulted in the forced removal of all Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

Most of the Cherokee were also removed. For a period some, led by such warriors as Tsali, evaded removal by staying in the area now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A band on the Oconaluftee River acquired land and also remained. Their descendants make up most of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in Cherokee, North Carolina, and their Qualla Boundary reserve to the south of the park.

 
Clearcut logging in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee, 1936

John Mingus, who built the Mingus Mill, and Ralph Hughes settled on the Oconaluftee in 1795. Other settlers soon followed and began clearing land and farming. In 1818, John Oliver and his family were the first white settlers to move into Cades Cove. After 1821, more families settled in Cades Cove including the Jobes, Gregorys, Sparkes, and Cables. As the community began to grow, the Cades Cove Baptist Church was established in 1827.[2]

As white settlers arrived, entrepreneurs developed logging as a major industry in the mountains. The Little River Railroad was constructed by Colonel W. B. Townsend[2] in the late-19th century to haul timber out of the remote regions of the area. Colonel Townsend had purchased 86,000 acres of land on the Little River. The construction of the Little River Railroad set an example for larger companies like the Ritter Lumber Company, Montvale Timber Company, and Norwood Lumber to also purchase acres of land for logging. The logging company Champion purchased 92,000 acres (37,000 ha) of land which included the Greenbrier Cove area and areas from Clingman's Dome to Mount Kephart. By 1909 logging was at its peak and by 1920 about two-thirds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area had been logged or burned by fires from logging operations.[2]  

Because cut-and-run-style clearcutting was destroying the natural beauty of the area, by the 20th century visitors and locals banded together to raise money for preservation of the land. The U.S. National Park Service wanted a park in the eastern United States, but did not have much money to establish one. David C. Chapman; a Knoxville, Tennessee, business leader; was appointed in 1925 to head a commission to establish a national park here. Congress authorized the park in 1926, but there was no nucleus of federally owned land around which to develop it. John D. Rockefeller Jr. contributed $5 million, the U.S. government added $2 million, and private citizens from Tennessee and North Carolina pitched in to assemble the land for the park, piece by piece.

Slowly, mountain homesteaders, miners, and loggers were evicted from the land. Farms and timbering operations were abolished to establish the protected areas of the park. Travel writer Horace Kephart, for whom Mount Kephart was named, and photographers Jim Thompson and George Masa were instrumental in fostering the development of the park.[3][4] Ben W. Hooper, a former governor of Tennessee, was the principal land purchasing agent for the park,[5] which was officially established on June 15, 1934. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, and other federal organizations hired workers to build trails, fire watchtowers, and other infrastructure improvements to the park and Smoky Mountains.

^ Pierce, Daniel S. (2000). The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park (1st ed.). Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. pp. 2–5. ISBN 1-57233-076-7. OCLC 42619715. ^ a b c Wuerthner, George (2003). Great Smoky Mountains : a Visitor's Companion (1st ed.). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 32–41. ISBN 0-8117-2498-0. ^ Cite error: The named reference Idea was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Images of the Great Smoky Mountains". dlc.lib.utk.edu. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2018. ^ "Ben W. Hooper". tennesseeencyclopedia.net. Archived from the original on 26 May 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
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