The Ultimate Great Smoky Mountains Travel Guide

Even if you haven’t been to our most visited national park yet, you can probably picture those blue ridgelines blurred across a southern Appalachian sky by that perpetual, namesake haze. In the spring, the sight is often the backdrop for a field of colorful wildflowers; in the fall, a rich palette of changing leaves. I’m lucky to call the 500,000-acre Great Smoky...

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The Ocean Cleanup project finally cleaned up some plastic

Well, folks, there’s a first time for everything — the Ocean Cleanup project has successfully deployed a device that collects plastic pollution. It only took six years, tens of millions of dollars, and a few unsuccessful attempts (or “unscheduled learning opportunities,” in the words of 25-year-old founder and CEO Boyan Slat). The nonprofit’s prior, unsuccessful designs...

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Feds to open Utah’s national parks to ATVs

The roar of ATVs could be coming to a Utah national park backcountry road near you under a major policy shift initiated by the National Park Service without public input. Across the country, off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are generally barred from national parks. For Utah’s famed parks, however, that all changes starting Nov. 1, 2019 when these vehicles may be...

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North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park adds 900 acres for new recreation, camping, trailhead

Hanging Rock State Park encompasses 8,605 acres, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. Now, the state is tacking on another 900 acres. NCDPR celebrated the new addition to the state park in Stokes County. “This is truly a day for celebration,” said Secretary Susi H. Hamilton in a news release. “Future visitors to Hanging Rock State Park will...

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Hellbenders Need You to Stop Messing With Their Bedrooms

Like many misunderstood and undervalued creatures in the country’s wilds, the hellbender faces innumerable threats from poisoned water to climate change. But this creature—one that has survived some of Earth’s most dramatic changes—also faces an additional threat. And that threat involves people messing with its bedroom. Seriously. Hellbenders have a home range of about...

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Celebrate National Public Lands Day on September 28, 2019

National parks will offer free admission, wellness events, and stewardship activities for National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28, 2019 – the country’s biggest celebration of the great outdoors. “It is always energizing to see people, parks, and communities unite in support of public lands,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “The variety of...

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Five Ways Forests Benefit Human Health

Have you ever spent the whole day inside sitting in school or work feeling exhausted, but when you walk outside into the sun and fresh air, you instantly feel better? There’s an actual scientific term for this feeling. Biophilia is a word for human’s innate draw to the natural environment. However, nature and forests in particular do much more for human health than just...

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Smokies Park Hosts Multiple Volunteer Opportunities in Celebration of National Public Lands Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a variety of opportunities on Saturday, September 28, 2019 in celebration of the 26th annual National Public Lands Day. On this day, National Park Service staff and volunteers will host information stations at popular sites throughout the national park. These stations will offer information about Leave No Trace principles and...

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Take a tour of this canyon for a less-crowded, more in-depth experience than at Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado is an archaeological gem thanks to nearly 5,000 ancient sites. Founded in 1906, the park preserves the heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the dwellings for almost 700 years. For a more peaceful journey through indigenous history, head to Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Situated in the...

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Armadillos roll into Western North Carolina

Flexible bands of skin on its back hold the hard pieces of its roly-poly shell together. Scales cover much of its body, interrupted by the shaggy, grey hair that covers its belly. Deserving a spot alongside the platypus as one of the world’s strangest mammals, the latest arrival to the Tar Heel State is doing its part to keep the Asheville area weird. Since May 17, the...

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Trump Administration Repeals Clean Water Rule, Threatening National Park Waterways and Drinking Water for Communities Across the Country

The Trump administration announced its final repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, threatening drinking water for communities and national park waterways across the country. The administration’s dismantling of the Clean Water Rule, combined with its proposed rewrite, eliminates protections for our nation’s...

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Sacred Native American Sites Are Not Your Playgrounds

Some of the places most sought after by recreationists are also culturally, spiritually, and/or economically vital to Native American tribes. As more people take to these lands to hike, bike, climb, ski, paddle, or camp, respect for indigenous values sometimes fades. In Wyoming’s Devils Tower National Monument, for instance, an increasing number of climbers are choosing...

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Smokies Park reaches biodiversity milestone at 20,000 species

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reached a biodiversity milestone with the discovery and documentation of 20,000 species of plants, animals, and other organisms. Scientists from across the world have assisted the park in a concerted effort to catalog all life in the park through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI). “Reaching this milestone is a testament to...

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How can I teach my students about climate change?

The good news about young brains — as anyone who’s been even passively absorbing climate news over the past year probably knows — is that the Teens Are Pretty On It. Seattle-based climate activist Jamie Margolin launched the nonprofit Zero Hour when she was yet to hit voting age. The International Youth Climate Strike, which took place in over 130 countries this past...

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19-Mile Rail Trail Could Link Hendersonville and Brevard

North Carolina House Rep. Chuck McGrady, Conserving Carolina, and Friends of the Ecusta Trail are pleased to announce that Conserving Carolina was awarded a $6.4 million purchase grant for the rail corridor known as the TR Line or Proposed Ecusta Trail. “This is a very big next step for the Ecusta Trail”, said McGrady. “There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot...

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Yes, the Amazon wildfires are bad, but how bad?

Brazil has recorded over 75,000 individual forest fires in 2019 so far, showing an 85 per cent increase when compared to the first eight months of 2018. The impact on the Amazon has been catastrophic. In July, an area the size of Manhattan was obliterated every single day. And this destruction will undoubtedly have grave consequences for the entire planet. The Amazon...

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Park Webcams Provide Smokies Views and Weather

Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently installed webcams at Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome, providing visitors with near real-time access to weather conditions and views from the highest elevations in the park. The public can access images taken every 15 minutes, along with hourly information on temperature, humidity, wind speeds, precipitation, and air quality....

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It’s raining plastic: microscopic fibers are falling from the sky

Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Weatherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains.“I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geological Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers. The discovery, published in a recent study titled “It is raining...

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How Jocassee Gorges Was Saved

To appreciate what Bill Thomas did for Gorges State Park, think of it not as a stand-alone property but as part of the larger Lake Jocassee watershed. Also known as Jocassee Gorges, it is a freak of climatological and geologic nature that extends across the North Carolina-South Carolina line southwest of Asheville and has been named by National Geographic as one of fifty...

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Indians Plant 220 Million Trees In A Single Day

More than a million Indians planted 220 million trees on August 9, 2019 in a government campaign to tackle climate change and improve the environment in the country’s most populous state. Forest official Bivhas Ranjan said students, lawmakers, officials and others planted dozens of species of saplings along roads, rail tracks and in forest lands in northern Uttar Pradesh...

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The Controversial Plan to Protect America’s Trails

There are 11 designated national scenic trails stretching across nearly 18,000 miles in the U.S. But there are more than 4,000 miles of privately owned “gaps” in the system that leave routes vulnerable to a change in ownership or a landowner’s whims. Typically, the government or nonprofit trail associations work to fill such gaps by purchasing land from willing sellers....

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Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy Protects 187 Acres at Wilkins Creek

Just beyond the rush of traffic on Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina line, steep hillsides and forested knolls shelter a vibrant community of wildlife. Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy recently purchased 187 acres in this part of Haywood County near the Pigeon River to protect a corridor for wildlife grazing and movement. Encircled by the Pisgah...

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Mountain goat relocation is a high-flying balancing act in Olympic National Park

In early July, the loud whirring of a helicopter punctured the quiet of Washington’s Olympic National Park as wildlife specialists scoured meadows, forests, ridgelines and mountaintops for flashes of white fuzz: mountain goats. The cherry-red aircraft kicked up dirt and debris as it lowered two goats, dangling in slings, toward a waiting truck, their feet bound and their...

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The Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded

The same heat dome that roasted Europe and broke national temperature records in five countries last week has shifted to Greenland, where it is causing one of the biggest melt events ever observed on the fragile ice sheet. By some measures, the ice melt is more extreme than during a benchmark record event in July 2012, according to scientists analyzing the latest data....

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Science at Sugarlands: Mysterious grassy balds

Mysterious and haunting, Southern Appalachian grassy balds have long fascinated scientists and hikers alike. How many balds are there in the Smokies? How did they evolve? How do they support rare plants? Can balds be found in other parts of the world? These and many other questions will be answered—or at least discussed—on Friday, August 16, 2019 when NPS forester Jesse...

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The Nature Conservancy Preserves Nearly 400 Square Miles of Appalachian Forest

  A 253,000-acre swath in the Central Appalachian Mountains will be protected, thanks to a land acquisition by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced earlier this month. Two parcels, one along the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, and the other in Southwest Virginia, will fill in large gaps between existing public lands and provide a wilderness corridor for...

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How Science Got Trampled in the Rush to Drill in the Arctic

Tucked into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill signed by President Donald Trump, was a brief two-page section that had little to do with tax reform. Drafted by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the provision opened up approximately 1.6 million acres of the vast Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, a reversal of the federal policy that has long protected...

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Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Party at Cradle of Forestry

Come and join Smokey and all his friends at The Cradle of Forestry for his 75th birthday. This year’s red carpet event is the hottest ticket in Pisgah National Forest, with all new games and events, it’s fun for the whole family. Party Schedule: 11:00 am to 1:00 pm: Smokey’s Birthday Party. Enjoy games, prizes, live children’s music, and birthday cake. 11:30 am: Smokey...

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7 Ways Hemp Plastic Could Change the World

Did you know that it takes between 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade? Plastic pollution is destroying our planet by the minute. In fact, so much plastic is thrown away each year it could circle the earth four times. And these numbers are on the rise. In the United States alone, Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. This plastic ends up in...

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For 35 years, a team of scientists have studied the decline of glaciers. What does their loss mean?

Walking the icy flanks of Mount Baker—an active volcano in Washington State and one of the highest peaks in the Cascade Range—is probably one of the most untainted wilderness experiences. A high mountain glacier, in its frigid, deadly enormity, doesn’t feel much like a landscape meant for humans. In the European Alps, medieval myths held that glaciers carried curses and...

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Here’s how hot your hometown will feel by mid-century

Residents of Harris County, Texas are no stranger to heat. The swampy Houston metro area averages nearly 40 days per year with temperatures in the 100 degrees F or higher range. But, according to a pair of papers published this week, if nothing is done about climate change, many more U.S. cities could be feeling a similar kind of heat. A new report released by the Union...

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He took down dams, freed wolves and preserved wildlands. Bruce Babbitt is still at work.

The rising sun was just starting to light up the tops of the sandstone cliffs when Bruce Babbitt arrived at an empty parking lot, ready to set out on a hike. He chose a trail he knows and loves, a canyon filled with childhood memories and one of his favorite wilderness areas — a fitting place to meet someone who has been immersed in decisions about preserving wilderness...

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