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Meanderthals | great smoky mountains national park

Hiking through history: Little Cataloochee offers a window to the past

One hundred years ago, the parking area and campground just past the fields in Cataloochee Valley where elk often hang out was better known as Nellie, a remote community in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As anybody who’s ever driven the steep and narrow access road from Jonathan Creek can imagine, it was hard to get in and hard to get out in the...

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Smokies Park Hosts Trail Volunteer Opportunities in April

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays during the month of April, 2019 on popular trails as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced park staff. Volunteers will help...

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Springtime in the Great Smokies means synchronous firefly extravaganza is coming soon

Synchronous fireflies – the hottest ticket outside the flashing lights of Broadway – are about to get the party started. The chance to see Photinus carolinus, a firefly species whose males display synchronous flashes to attract mates, is so hotly anticipated and so rare, that the National Park Service had to limit the hordes of humans and now holds a lottery for tickets...

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Smokies Park and Eastern Band Cherokee Indians Finalize Agreement Allowing Sochan Gathering

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) finalized a gathering agreement that allows the gathering of sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata) for traditional purposes by 36 permitted tribal members. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and Principal Chief Richard Sneed were joined by tribal council members as they signed the historic...

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Smokies Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds. Previous...

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Chattanooga native named first female Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

GSMNP officials say Lisa Hendy will oversee employees in the Resource and Visitor Protection Division who perform law enforcement duties, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, backcountry operations, and staff the emergency communications center. The GSMNP says Hendy brings a wealth of experience to the position after serving...

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New Visitation Record Set Once Again at Smokies Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 11,421,203 visitors in 2018. That slight, 0.7 percent increase over 2017, was attributed to the opening of the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley in November. In just two months, nearly 200,000 visitors experienced this new park opportunity, which resulted in record-setting visitation in...

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GPS study: nearly all bears leave Smokies for food

Researchers have completed a breakthrough study that used GPS collars to track black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The results are shattering some long-held beliefs about where the animals travel for food. It may also force entire counties to rethink their bear-proofing policies. “We always thought there were two kinds of bears. You had...

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Paving Project on Little River Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a pavement preservation project will begin Tuesday, February 19, 2019 on Little River Road. A thin pavement overlay will be applied to the entire length of the 16.5-mile roadway between Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Townsend Wye along with associated pull-offs and parking lots and the 1.5-mile Elkmont Road...

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Great Smoky Mountains Association Commits to Funding Park Visitor Centers During Government Shutdown

During the extended government shutdown in October 2013, the public’s access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was nearly non-existent. This time, however, if a government shutdown goes into effect at midnight on December 21, Great Smoky Mountains Association is committed to creating a different reality for park visitors during the upcoming holiday week. “We know...

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Smokies Park Hosts Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration on Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public. The festival will include mountain music, traditional shape note singing, mountain craft...

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Next Smokies trail project announced

  A two-year effort to rehabilitate Rainbow Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now complete, and the next Trails Forever project has been announced — Trillium Gap Trail, a 6.6-mile path that intersects with the Rainbow Falls Trail at Mount LeConte. The rehabilitation of Trillium Gap Trail will take two years, beginning in May 2019, and...

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Duke Energy Begins Final Phase of Mt. Sterling Solar Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Duke Energy will remove utility poles and overhead powerline along a 3.5-mile utility corridor that extends from the park boundary at Mt. Sterling Road (Hwy NC284) to the Mt. Sterling Fire Lookout Tower beginning Monday, November 19, 2018 through Friday, November 30. Work will not occur on weekends or the...

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Biodiversity Inventory Reaches 1,000 New Species Mark at GSMNP

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its non-profit partner, Discover Life in America (DLIA), recently celebrated the 20th year of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) with the announcement of a major milestone of the project – 1,000 new species to science! Over the last 20 years, many species have been documented in the park for the first time, but the...

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The Year That Fall Never Arrived – A Photo Essay

Like a child anticipating Christmas, this year has had us waiting… waiting… waiting for the leaf peeping season to begin. Combine a very wet summer with a September where the warmth never ended, and it’s like the year that fall never arrived. This day, October 12, 2018, was the first day all autumn where the overnight temperature dropped into the...

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Smokies Park Hosts Stargazing Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center beginning at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. Located on Purchase Knob, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky in the park and in Haywood County, NC. The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky...

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Ramble On: A History of Hiking

How did hiking evolve from the upper-class European sport of alpinism and the publication of an English travel guide into an activity that now has millions of participants all over the world? Who built the thousands of miles of trails that now crisscross America? What did early hikers wear, and what were some of the key inventions and innovations that led to our modern...

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Fall into Volunteerism with Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce upcoming Fall “Smokies Service Days” volunteer projects. These unique opportunities allow community members and park visitors to get involved and become stewards of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them...

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Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cosby section of the Smokies park is mostly known for its long, arduous treks to high country destinations like Mt. Cammerer and Inadu Knob. But there is another trail there that is more moderate in difficulty. A good day hike on Gabes Mountain Trail is the 4-mile round trip to Hen Wallow Falls, a 90-foot, multi-tiered cascade. This is cool, dense forest, some of it...

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A Day with the Azaleas at Andrews Bald – A Photo Essay


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Andrews Bald is the highest bald in the Smokies, standing just under 6,000 feet. Every year in the month of June, the flame azalea and rhododendron show arrives for all those willing to hike a couple miles to see. You start at Clingmans Dome and take the Forney Ridge Trail to reach Andrews Bald. Here is a complete trail report that describes the hike. In addition to the...

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Best of the burden: Smokies mules make backcountry operations possible

In popular culture mules get a bad rap, cast as stubborn, ornery and even mischievous. But Danny Gibson, animal packer for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spends more time with mules than just about anybody around, and he’s quick to jump to their defense. “They have that notorious reputation of being stubborn, but they’re not really stubborn — they just don’t...

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Smokies Celebrates 20 Years of New Species Discoveries

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating 20 years of conducting biodiversity inventories. Park managers, biologists, educators, and non-park scientists initiated an effort to discover all life in the Smokies through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) on Earth Day in 1998. The non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLIA), created in 1998,...

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Cruisin’ Little River Road for Wildflowers – A Photo Essay

What to do if you’ve got half a day to kill on the Tennessee side of the Smokies? Well, if it’s April, the obvious conclusion is a wildflower hunt along Little River Road between Sugarlands and the Townsend-Y. On Saturday, April 21st, I had an invitation to the annual Great Smoky Mountains National Park Volunteers Appreciation Banquet, but it wasn’t to...

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Bradley Fork and Cabin Flats Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This is one of my new favorite Spring wildflower hikes in the Smokies. The flowers are brilliant along both the Bradley Fork and Cabin Flats Trails. The Smokemont region of the Smokies is one of the most convenient, located just a short few miles northwest of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center off Hwy 441. It is four miles up Bradley Fork to Cabin Flats Trail, then another...

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Smokies Park Recruits Trail Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays beginning April 5 through April 28, 2018 along heavily-used trails and nature loops as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced...

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Elkmont rehab work resumes next week in Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park crews will remove 10 buildings from the historic Elkmont site beginning today. The work marks the end of major demolition that began in 2010. The road along the site of the former Wonderland Hotel will be closed to pedestrians during demolition. Officials hope to have the work finished by April 30. Crews plan to preserve the buildings...

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GSMNP prepares for thru-hiking season after record year

After another record year in 2017, backcountry managers with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are asking visitors to consider ways to enjoy the park while minimizing their impact. With overall park visitation and Appalachian Trail hiking both growing, the number of people entering the park has grown significantly. “2017 in terms of thru-hikers, we saw the...

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‘Friends’ groups provide vital support for public lands

We all need friends, and public lands in Western North Carolina increasingly receive care in the form of “Friends” nonprofit groups. In an era of shrinking federal budgets for parks and forests, these organizations are stepping up to preserve and maintain public spaces. “Friends groups used to be the margin of excellence; now they’re the margin of survival,” Sally...

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds. Previous...

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41st Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces the 41st annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration scheduled on Saturday, December 9, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public. The festival will include old-time mountain music,...

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Appalachian Unsolved: Trenny Gibson, Lost in the Smokies

High school girls don’t just vanish in a national park, never to be found again. Unless you’re Trenny Gibson of Knoxville, TN. Hiking in the Smokies one minute. Nowhere to be found the next. That’s all anyone knows about the last moments of 16-year-old Trenny Gibson. Where she ended up – fatally injured in a fall, taken by a kidnapper, whisked...

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Smokies Park invites public to #OptOutside after Thanksgiving Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites visitors to join a park ranger for a guided hike on Friday, November 24, 2017 or a service opportunity on Saturday, November 25. Hikes will be offered near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Elkmont Campground, providing an outstanding opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park. Rangers and park...

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