Archive for the ‘Great Smoky Mountains National Park’ Category

Park and DLiA Host Smokies Species Day

Release Date: June 26, 2019

Contact:          Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207
Todd Witcher,, 865-430-4757

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) are celebrating the diversity of life in the park by hosting “Smokies Species Day” at Sugarlands Visitor Center on Saturday, June 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Attendees can learn about fungi, slime molds, beetles, moths, butterflies, and other creatures of the Smokies at this free, family-friendly event!

The event will be held outdoors on the patio area in front of the visitor center providing opportunities for people to tour the pollinator garden and participate in a hands-on citizen science program called Species SnapIt & MapIt which allows everyone to help gather scientific data about species encountered in the park. Researchers will also share how the ecosystem in fire-affected areas are recovering from the 2016 wildfires.

Smokies Species Day is centered on the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), a partnership between the park and DLiA, which has been taking place in the park for more than 20 years. The ATBI is a concerted effort to discover and understand all the species inhabiting the 522,000-acre park habitat, including plants, fungi, birds, amphibians, insects, bacteria, and more. Over the life of the ATBI, there have been a variety of organisms discovered that are new records for the park, as well as over 1,000 species that are new to science.

This event and research efforts are partially supported by Friends of the Smokies. For more information about DLiA, please or



Public Affairs Office

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Road

Gatlinburg, TN  37738

Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207 (office), 865-712-4928 (mobile)

Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203 (office), 865-410-2405 (mobile)

Park Hosts “Smokies Service Days”

Release Date: June 20, 2019

Contact:   Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207

Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to participate in “Smokies Service Days” beginning June 29 to help complete much needed work across the park. Park staff will lead these single-day volunteer opportunities that are ideal for people of all ages interested in learning more about the park through hands-on service.

Individuals, families, and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park campgrounds, native plant gardens, and a variety of natural and cultural resources. The program is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements including high school and college students, scout groups, and civic organizations. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants are required to wear closed-toe shoes and should bring water and snacks. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering must contact Project Coordinator, Andrew Mentrup, at 865-436-1278, prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

June 29:            Cosby Campground Clean-Up
July 13:             Chimneys Picnic Area Clean-Up
July 27:             Elkmont Campground Clean-Up
August 17:       Cosby Horse Trail:  Clean-Up
September 14: Oconaluftee Visitor Center Flower Bed Maintenance
September 21: Sugarlands Visitor Center Non-Native Honeysuckle Removal
October 5:        Elkmont’s Daisy Town Clean-Up


Public Affairs Office

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN  37738
Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207 (office), 865-712-4928 (mobile)
Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203 (office), 865-410-2405 (mobile)

Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Release Date:  June 12, 2019
Contact:           Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to attend “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs on Fridays beginning June 14 through August 2 at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater. The programs honor the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area through music, storytelling, and history walks.

“These programs offer incredible opportunities for visitors to discover Cosby by experiencing it firsthand with the people who live and work here,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are grateful to our friends from the local community who are leading these unique experiences.”

Programs feature local musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, and former residents who once lived in the park. Visitors are invited to step back in time during these summer programs to experience the music and mountain ways of people living in the Cosby area both then and now.

“We are so happy that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bringing this program to our Cosby Campground,” said Cocke Country Partnership Tourist Director, Linda Lewanski. “We all know how talented our Cocke County folks are and we are delighted to be able to showcase them.”

All programs will be held at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater unless otherwise specified. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.

For more information, please contact Park Ranger Katie Corrigan at 865-436-1257 or

Program Schedule:

• June 14, 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Flag Day Ceremony at the Cosby Picnic Pavilion

Join William Cocke, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102, Parrottsville Quilts of Valor Foundation, American Veterans Post 75, and American Legion Post 41 for a moving tribute to veterans buried at Tritt Cemetery including the placement of flags and roll call.


• June 14, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Mountain Edge Band

Enjoy traditional bluegrass music featuring Judge Carter Moore, Andy Williams, Jamie Clark, and Limmie Workman.


 • June 21, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Moonshiners

Learn about making moonshine in the mountains featuring Mark Ramsey, Digger Manes, and Kelly Williamson.


• June 28, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Children of Cosby Yesterday and Today

Join Park Ranger Katie Corrigan and Ginger Sue Cantrell as they introduce visitors to hands-on learning experiences from the past to now with a visit to Mountain Rest School.


• July 5 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Celebrating Ella V. Costner

Enjoy stories of the famed “Poet Laureate of the Smokies,” Ella Costner, who grew up in Cosby before joining the army as a nurse and becoming a prolific writer. This evening will include a Presentation of Quilts of Valor.


• July 12 at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A Walk Down Memory Lane

Join Imogene Wilson and Olie Williamson as they take on a walk remembering what the area looked like before the creation of the national park.


• July 19 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Cherokee Storytelling and Dance

Learn about the Cherokee culture stories through dance and storytelling featuring members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian.


• July 26 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. An Evening of Artifacts

Join Park Archaeologist Allison Harvey and local experts to dive into local history including discussions on hunting and firearms by Randall Bradly; spinning wheels by Shane McGaha and Judy McGaha; and the making of lye soap by Imogene Wilson.


• August 2 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Old-Timey Music with Richard Bennett
Enjoy traditional old-timey music with Richard Bennett who once played with Bill Monroe.



Media Opportunity:

What:    Program leaders are available to conduct interviews, either in studio or on site, to provide more information about upcoming programs.

When:   The media are welcome to attend any of the programs or to conduct pre-interviews before the program dates.

Contact: Please contact Park Ranger Katie Corrigan at 865-436-1257 or Cocke County Partnership Director Linda Lewankski at 423-625-9675 to coordinate interviews.


Public Affairs Office

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Road

Gatlinburg, TN  37738

Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207 (office), 865-712-4928 (mobile)

Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203 (office), 865-410-2405 (mobile)

National Park Hosts Women’s Work Festival

Release Date: June 10, 2019
Contact:          Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Women’s Work Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The festival honors the vast contributions made by the women of Southern Appalachia. Park staff and volunteers will showcase mountain lifeways and customs that women practiced to care for their families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, cornshuck crafts, and use of plants for home remedies. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house.

In addition to the Women’s Work Festival activities, visitors will also be treated to a music jam session on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Music jam sessions are held every first and third Saturday of the month from May through October on the porch from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All activities are free to the public. The Mountain Farm Museum is located on Newfound Gap Road adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For additional information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904.



Public Affairs Office

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Road

Gatlinburg, TN  37738

Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207 (office), 865-712-4928 (mobile)

Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203 (office), 865-410-2405 (mobile)

Park Hosts Star Gazing Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a stargazing event on Friday, May 31 at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in North Carolina. Located on Purchase Knob at 5,000 feet in elevation, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky from the Haywood County region of the park.

The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260 degree unobstructed view of the sky. Visitors can expect to see many celestial wonders including star clusters, binary star systems, and other galaxies.

“National Park areas offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “National Parks across the country monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we would to protect our air and water. Visitors are often amazed at the amount of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The event starts at 8:00 p.m. with an indoor presentation of what can be seen in the nighttime skies during May. This presentation will be held rain or shine. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so visitors should bring warm layers. The program is free, but participation is limited by parking availability. Participants must register in advance to reserve one of the 44 parking permits.  Reservations can be made by registering through Eventbrite ( or by calling 828-497-1907.

For more information about stargazing in the park, please visit the park’s website at


Dana Soehn


Trillium Gap Trail Rehabilitation Begins May 13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a 2-year trail rehabilitation project will begin next week on Trillium Gap Trail. Due to the construction process on the narrow trail, a full closure is necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The trail and associated parking lot along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will be closed May 13 through November 15 on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

Trillium Gap Trail is one of the busiest trails in the park as it provides access to the popular Grotto Falls and the summit of Mt. Le Conte. There will not be any access to Grotto Falls during the weekday closures. Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four trails to the summit including the recently restored Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Trails.

“We recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Trails Forever partnership with the Friends of the Smokies and I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing work accomplished by our crews, youth interns, and volunteers in transforming trails across the park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While we hate to disappoint hikers with weekday closures, the results are well worth the inconvenience and allow us the opportunity to continue to protect these special places for generations to come.”

The trail crew will focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the entire length of the trail stretching from the Rainbow Falls Trail parking area to the summit of Mt. Le Conte. The work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by improving the tread surface, reducing trail braiding, and improving drainage to prevent further erosion. There are several areas along the trail where erosion and small landslides have damaged significant sections, making the trail difficult to follow. In addition to the work on Trillium Gap Trail, trail crews will perform critical trail work across the park as part of the Trails Forever program including rehabilitation along Deep Creek Trail, Rough Fork Trail, Smokemont Trail, and Noah Bud Ogle Trail.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for highly skilled trail crew members to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including Rainbow Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Forney Ridge trails. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers and interns to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.

Volunteer work days for the Trails Forever program are held every Wednesday, May through August. Prior registration is required. Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or for more details and to register.



Park Celebrates Tourism Week with Local Communities

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to announce the selection of Joy Absher as the 2018 “Employee of the Year” in concert with celebrating Tourism Week with local communities. This marks the 35th anniversary of an important partnership between the park and its neighboring communities which recognizes the outstanding work of park employees in all disciplines. A public event will be held on Tuesday, May 7 at 11:30 a.m. on the lawn at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg, TN.

“Joy’s performance as the Tennessee Education Branch lead is extraordinary,” stated Education Branch Chief Susan Sachs. “She is the lead for the Pi Beta Phi partnership, coordinates a robust Teachers-in-Parks summer program, and leads in-depth programs for the local Boys and Girls clubs in the region. She constantly strives to find ways to enhance the Education operation in Tennessee.”

Serving as a Resource Education Park Ranger, Joy is responsible for helping youth understand the natural world around them by illustrating how they are interconnected to their environment. In her role as Tennessee Education Branch lead, Joy serves approximately 10,000 students each year through resource education programming. Her goal is to transform students into park stewards with a genuine interest and appreciation for our National Parks.

“Joy’s impact on the thousands of youth who visit the National Park is immeasurable,” said Superintended Cassius Cash. “She transforms students through thought-provoking programs enabling students to connect to the natural world. Through her work, Joy is ensuring that the National Park Service and the Smokies remains relevant for the next 100 years.”

In addition to her education work, Joy serves as a National Park Service Operational Leadership instructor and provides training to approximately four additional parks across the service each year. Throughout her career at the Smokies, Joy has stepped in to serve in multiple capacities when positions have become vacant, including serving as the Acting Education Branch Chief and recently as the Acting Concessions Specialist. She serves as a mentor to all her coworkers by sharing her years of institutional knowledge and offering a helping hand to anyone in need.

“Joy’s performance of her job duties is superb at all levels,” said Acting Chief of Interpretation Stephanie Kyriazis. “She represents the best of the best within the National Park Service-thoughtful, caring, and dedicated.”

Joy lives in Sevierville, TN and has worked permanently at Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2010. Joy grew up in Wilkesboro, NC and attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. When Joy is not at work she loves to bake cookies, listen to live music, travel, hike, and enjoy living in the moment.

The annual event, sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Tourism and Development Council, will also observe National Tourism Week. In conjunction with this observance, a visiting family to the Smokies will be selected to participate as “Tourist Family of the Day.”  Jimbo Whaley, singer/songwriter and General Manager at Hearthside Rentals, will serve as the event emcee.

Co-hosts of the event include Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, Sevier County and Smoky Mountains Tourism Development Council.  Additional contributions provided by Blount County Partnership and Cocke County Partnership.


Release Date:   May 2, 2019



Dana Soehn, 865-436-1207,

Jamie Sanders, 865-436-1203,

Park Announces Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Thursday, May 30 through Thursday, June 6.  All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 26 at 8:00 a.m. until Monday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Friday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of seven occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, event supplies, one red-light flashlight per pass, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail by May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg.  The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at


Media Access: To obtain media access for the firefly event, please contact Dana Soehn (865-436-1207)) in order to secure times, dates, and an access pass.

Film Permit Access: To obtain a film permit to photograph or film the firefly event, please contact Kathleen Stuart (828-497-1914) in order to secure times, dates, and a film permit access pass.

Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Release Date: March 1, 2019

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 experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, March 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations in the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall.  The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Paul Super at or 828-497-1945 to register for the training.  For more information about phenology research efforts across the country visit the National Phenology Network at


Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207

Jamie Sanders,, 865-436-1203


Celebrate the Smokies’ 100,000 Unique Life Forms during Biodiversity Days, June 19-21

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (June 2014) – From the park’s famous black bears to humble snails, from slimy stream algae to the majestic poplar trees, Discover Life in America will celebrate all life forms that call Great Smoky Mountains National Park home June 19-21.

Activities include short, family friendly hikes, lively presentations, hands-on workshops and presentations by field scientists and naturalists eager to share their knowledge of the truly amazing diversity of life forms in the Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most visited national park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park.

The three-day event is free and open to the public. Participants of all ages should arrive by 10 a.m. at Twin Creeks Science Center at 1316 Cherokee Orchard Road, located about one mile from downtown Gatlinburg, Tenn. Please bring your lunch, enough water for the day, and dress for being outside in the weather.

Thursday, June 19, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Did you know that there are five basic types of centipedes and that none has 100 legs? It’s true! This is your chance to learn firsthand the important role centipedes play in the park’s fragile ecosystem. An overview of centipede basics, followed by a look at some species examples, and then a “field trip” to collect and observe centipedes in the field will be the highlights of this workshop. Please call to register 865-430-4756.

Friday, June 20, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Freshwater sponges are a good indicator of the health of the water around them. Participants will learn about the foods these fascinating creatures eat, as well as their symbiotic relationships with algae.  An overview of sponge basics, followed by a look at some species examples, and then a “field trip” to collect and observe sponges in the field will be the highlights of this workshop. Please call to register 865-430-4756.

Saturday, June 21, 10 a.m. – Sunset

Hike the trails with DLIA botanists and discover some of the most beautiful — and dramatic — fauna the park has to offer: Ferns! Fossil records place the ancestors of America’s favorite houseplant to about 360 million years ago—a time long before dinosaurs ruled the land.  Please call to register and get information about where to meet.  This event will not take place at Twin Creeks Science Center.

DLIA’s mission is to discover and understand America’s species through science and education for conservation. DLIA’s flagship project, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, is a joint effort with the National Park Service to identify and record every single species within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To date, DLIA has assisted in adding 7,799 new species to the park’s records and 931 new to science.

For more information, visit



Media contact:

Todd P. Witcher

865-430-4757 (Business)

865-250-1207 (Mobile)