Archive for the ‘Great Smoky Mountains National Park’ Category

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)

Newfound Gap Road Reopens 30 Days Early

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (April 15, 2013) – Instead of marking April 15 as the deadline to file income tax returns, many people near America’s most visited national park celebrated the day because of the reopening of Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441).

Ready for traffic on April 15, 2013

Ready for traffic on April 15, 2013

The road – which links the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Tennessee with Cherokee, N.C., and is the only route that connects the two-state park – had been closed for three months. A landslide on Jan. 16 washed away approximately 200 feet of the road.

The reopening was 30 days ahead of schedule. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and the National Park Service had offered contractors an incentive of $18,000 a day (up to $504,000) for early completion.

It was not a simple task. The work involved stabilizing the slope above the work area and then rebuilding the roadway and filling the area washed away during the landslide with crushed stone.

A drainage system and pervious crushed stone material will protect the road and surrounding land from future damage due to both overflow and subsurface water flow.

For the most current road conditions in the park, call 865-436-1200 x 631 or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Not ready for traffic, February 2013

Not ready for traffic, February 2013

National Park Visitor Center Gets Facelift

Great Smoky Mountains waterfall (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Great Smoky Mountains waterfall (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (April 2013) – At age 50, the Sugarlands Visitor Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park has gotten a major facelift.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies, two private sector organizations, funded the project.

Approximately 850,000 visitors a year come through the visitor center, which is on the Tennessee side of the 800-square-mile park that is split between Tennessee and North Carolina.

The work included new flooring, paint, lighting and a new entrance into a natural history museum. Park crews did most of the work during evening hours, permitting the visitor center to remain open throughout the project.

One of the special touches is a masonry wall that mirrors the original architecture of the building and invites visitors into the redesigned visitor contact area.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. (9,685,829 visitors in 2012). Park information is at

2012 Was Very, Very Good for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rose to 9,685,828 in 2012. That’s a 7.5 percent jump, making 2012 the biggest year since the 10.1 million visitors in 2000, which remains the record.

Park management credited mild weather last winter and spring as a big factor. Every month in 2012 had more visitors than the same month in 2011.

Clear, cool, tumbling water is a hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clear, cool, tumbling water is a hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

December’s count was 480,527, up from 471,603. That was despite the closure of the Newfound Gap Road between the Sugarlands Visitors Center and Cherokee, N.C., for all or part of six days because of ice and snow. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays brought large numbers of visitors to the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with 800 square miles of natural beauty, is the most visited national park in the United States.

The national park is the primary focus of Wilderness Wildlife Week, a project of the City of Pigeon Forge. It offers eight days of free programming and activities about the park and numerous other outdoor topics.

Wilderness Wildlife Week takes place at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center.

Head South for Holiday Lights, Travel Writers Say

Half of the 10 destinations the Society of American Travel Writers recommends for holiday lights are in the Southeast.

SATW members compiled a list of 10 destinations with light-up-the-night displays that might be lesser known than destinations such as Times Square in New York but still very much worth the trip.

The five destinations in the Southeast:
Winterfest lights TrainStation_067
* Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville in Tennessee for Smoky Mountain Winterfest
* Charlotte for Speedway Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway
* St. Augustine
* Louisville for Lights Under Louisville in Louisville Mega Cavern (yes, holiday lights in a cave)
* Pine Mountain, Ga., for Callaway Gardens

The other five scatterered around the country:

* Festival of Lights in Kauai, Hawaii
* Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
* The Newport Beach Boat Parade in California
* Nela Park in Cleveland
* Old Town Luminaria Tour in Albuquerque, N.M.

Here’s a link to the list and event descriptions:

Festive Times All Year in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Pick a month, any month, and you’ll find a festival or special event in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

This resort town next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park really knows how to show you a good time.

Every year starts with a mid-January salute to its neighbor with eight days of free activity called Wilderness Wildlife Week. There are classes, seminars, photography workshops, mini-concerts and hikes into the park’s 800 square miles of nature at its best.

July 4 Fireworks over Pigeon Forge’s Old Mill

February’s big event is most unusual – a salute to cowboy poetry, western music and chuck wagon cooking called Saddle Up. In March, a softer side comes out for A Mountain Quiltfest.

The city and various businesses organize the festivals and events, and a big organizer is Dollywood.

The popular theme park punctuates its almost yearlong season with an international festival in spring, a fall festival for bluegrass music and barbeque, a Southern gospel music festival and then a spectacular Christmas celebration called A Smoky Mountain Christmas.

A Smoky Mountain Christmas actually is part of a citywide celebration called Pigeon Forge Winterfest that captures all manner of events from early November through the following February

The Titanic Museum attraction gets in on the fun with a January ice-carving competition, winter snowfalls across the bow of the museum (the building looks like the famous ship) and other programs. All of 2013, for instance, is marked as “The Year of the Titanic Children” and focuses on the 133 children on the famous voyage.

Every May, thousands of people turn out for Dolly’s Homecoming Parade, which honors hometown superstar Dolly Parton. It’s all very Norman Rockwell – youthful twirling teams, high school bands, equestrian units – except that Dolly herself rides in the first float.

Mixed in during other months are car shows devoted to hot rods and nostalgic classics, a knockout 4th of July concert and fireworks event, a huge autumn crafts fair and the Salute to Veterans Parade in November.

Information about all events is online at or by calling 800-251-9100.

Look! Up in the Sky!

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (October 2012) – A gigantic blue and green helium balloon has people all over Pigeon Forge pointing to the sky and admiring the city’s newest attraction.

It is Wonders of Flight, an addition to the science- and fun-filled WonderWorks attraction on the Parkway.

The Wonders of Flight, a helium-filled balloon 72-feet in diameter, rises silently behind WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The Wonders of Flight balloon is 72 feet in diameter, and the gondola it lifts can carry up to 30 people for spectacular views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge and the surrounding counties. It is tethered to a 400-foot-long cable.

The captain says that on an especially clear day, the famous Cumberland Gap is visible on the horizon. That’s where Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia come together.

Aerophile, the world leader in tethered gas balloons, is the manufacturer. Its only other similar balloon in the Southeast is at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Other locations include China, France, Germany and Turkey.

“The ascents, by day or night, provide guests with an unmatched, 360-degree panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains,” said Jerome Giacomoni, Aerophile’s president. “In one single gaze, the entire breathtaking view can be seen from exceptional heights, including a unique opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the fall leaves.”

Wonders of Flight offers a spectacular view of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and great Smoky Mountains National Park at an elevation of 400 feet.

Giacomoni explains that the Wonders of Flight balloon is environmentally friendly and totally silent thanks to its permanently inflated helium envelope and a hydroelectric winch.



Join a Ranger for Hikes in the Smokies

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (July 2012) – The National Park Service is offering ranger-led, family-friendly hikes every Wednesday through Aug. 11.

The hikes encourage families to hike the park’s trails (there are 800 miles of trails in all), learn new skills, assist in trail stewardship and record their results.

The Little River Family Adventure Hike starts in the Elkmont area of the park. It covers five miles and takes about three hours. It is ranked “moderate” in difficulty and is on an unpaved gravel and dirt trail.

Participants should wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and bring plenty of water and a lunch. For more information, visit the “Hike the Smokies” website:

In addition to the weekly Wednesday hikes at Elkmont, there is a July 12 family hike at Schoolhouse Gap and a July 19 hike to Porters Flat.

The hikes are a part of a National Park Foundation grant funded through the Coca-Cola Foundation that expands the current “Hike the Smokies” and “Adopt a Trail” programs.

John Anderson, Lovin’ Spoonful Headline Patriot Festival

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (April 2012) – Country star John Anderson will have the crowd “Swingin’,” and the Lovin’ Spoonful will have everyone rocking to “Summer in the City” when Pigeon Forge presents its July 4 Patriot Festival blast. Admission is free.

Patriot Festival draws tens of thousands of Independence Day celebrants to Patriot Park in the heart of Pigeon Forge.

The towering ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park provide the visual backdrop for an afternoon and evening of music, which are capped by one of Tennessee’s major Fourth of July fireworks shows.

Anderson, who literally helped build Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House prior to his singing career, has had No. 1 hits with “Swingin’,” “Wild and Blue,” “Straight Tequila Night’ and “Money in the Bank.” Hits such as “Seminole Wind” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday” get instant recognition.

The Lovin’ Spoonful are part of the musical fabric of the 1960s and are 2000 inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Festival guests can count on “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” and “Nashville Cats” as well as “Summer in the City.”

Patriot Festival begins at noon when a multi-faceted kids’ play area opens. Music begins about 1:30 p.m. A 20-minute fireworks show, one of Tennessee’s largest for the Fourth of July, will blast off at about 9:30 p.m.

Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and sunscreen. A variety of food vendors will be on hand. Proceeds from their sales will go to local non-profit organizations.

Information about all aspects of visiting Pigeon Forge is available online at or by calling toll-free to 1-800-251-9100.

‘I Can See Clearly Now’

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (March 2012) – Visitors to America’s most visited national park will see something quite unusual for the next few months – crews at work opening scenic vistas that have grown up dramatically over the decades since the park was created.

After more than 75 years of forest growth, maturing trees are obscuring some of the park’s most scenic views, and enjoying the Smoky Mountains’ vistas is the No. 1 activity that visitors list.

The National Park Service is rolling back the natural clock by judiciously cutting some trees and trimming or thinning others.

They will work on 34 overlooks from April 1-Aug. 1 along Newfound Gap Road, Clingmans Dome Road, the East and West Foothills Parkway, the Gatlinburg Bypass, Rich Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Lakeview Drive and Cataloochee Road. No road closures are expected.

The goal of the vista management program is to allow the views to be maintained on a seven-year cycle.