more than 200-300 million years ago when drifting continents
collided, the Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in
continents collided, extreme pressures and moving water deformed the once
horizontal sedimentary rocks into folded structures. This collection of
folded and faulted rocks extends over 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia, forming the Appalachian Mountains. Although
the Smokies were never glaciated during the ice ages, the colder
conditions supported the spruce-fir forests and plants more common
in the northern areas.
more than 90 inches of precipitation annually, the abundant rain
and moisture contributes to the smoky haze or "place of blue
smoke" that the Cherokee Indians named the mountains and supports magnificent streams, rivers,
waterfalls, majestic peaks
and the largest and most diverse collection of plants and
animals, including black
bears, wild hogs and elk in North America.
of Rich Stevenson
Dominated by natural and self-generating
processes, where rivers are not dammed and predators are not killed, the
Smokies are one of the largest tracts of wildlands in the eastern United
States, supporting 1,500 flowering plants, 60
different mammals, 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, 70 fish species,
22 species of salamanders, 200 species of birds, at least 4,000 species of
non-flowering plants, mollusks, millipedes,
Smoky Mountains are home to the largest tract of virgin forest in the
eastern United States, although three-quarters of the park was once
logged. Rivaling the huge conifers of the Pacific Northwest, the cove
hardwood forests in the Smokies, along with the rest of the forests are
slowly recovering its natural beauty. Some 100 species of native trees find homes in the
Smokies, more than in any other North American National Park. Almost 95%
of the park is forested, and about 25% of that area is one of the largest
deciduous, temperate, old-growth forest remaining in North America. However,
global warming, acid rainfall, exotic species of plants, animals and
insects threaten the biodiversity of the area.
1926, after a movement to develop a national park in the Appalachians, the
Smoky Mountains were chosen and the land was dedicated in 1940 by Franklin
D. Roosevelt. A $5 million investment from industrialist John D.
Rockefeller, along with the support of concerned citizens throughout the
region, helped attain the final goal of the park's establishment,
protecting nearly 500,000 acres of land from development. Due to the abundance of the biology and natural resources, the park
has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and a World
Heritage Site in 1983.
maintaining the natural heritage and history of the mountains, the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park also preserves and protects the cultural
landscapes including cabins, mills, churches, and remnants of early human
occupation. Cades Cove houses most of the structures and is also the most
visited part of the park.
visitors come each year to hike the ancient forests,
fish in the rivers, horseback
ride through the Smokies, drive along the crests of its mile high peaks, camp in
developed or backcountry campsites and admire the stunning
views. There are ten million
visitors to the park annually, the highest visitation of any national park.
information, contact the National Park Service by calling 865-436-1200 or
send snail mail to GSMNP, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN