When President Woodrow Wilson scrawled the signature that brought the National Park Service into being — 100 years ago, on Aug. 25, 1916 — many of the parks now integral to America’s national identity had yet to be created.
There was no Great Smoky Mountains National Park, no Blue Ridge Parkway, no Appalachian Trail. No Grand Teton or Olympic or Mammoth Cave or Acadia National Park. At the time Wilson signed the Organic Act, only 35 national parks and monuments existed, with America the only country to have any.
The air on the Cataloochee Divide Trail is heavy with humidity and the promise of an afternoon storm, but the pervading mood is contrastingly buoyant as a group of 27 teens and their leaders sets out on a sunny Thursday morning.
It’s a tone that Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had set before anybody left the trailhead.
The presence of breathtaking topography, ancient native lore, and centuries of American history makes the Great Smoky Mountains a mystical, mysterious place as ominous and foreboding as it is inviting and encouraging.
These conflicting spirits also make the region a haven for filmmakers, including the cast and crew of the recently released, locally shot feature film “Beacon Point.”
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will get a makeover thanks to a $250,000 grant that supporters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park landed through participation in an online voting contest.
Nearly a month after an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker found his night interrupted by an attacking bear, the backcountry shelter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where the incident occurred is open once more.
Camping fees could increase in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if a recently released proposal gains approval.
It’s been three years since a vigorous debate about charging for backcountry camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ended with the park’s decision to charge backpackers a $4 fee, but for the fee’s most stalwart opponents, the issue isn’t yet in the rearview mirror.
Southern Forest Watch, a group that formed expressly to fight the fee, filed suit against the National Park Service soon after the fee was approved in February 2013. The public had overwhelmingly decried the proposal, SFW said, arguing that the park hadn’t followed correct procedure when approving it and contending that the assertion that the existing backcountry system was inadequate, crowded and causing complaints — necessitating the fee — was unfounded.
Lynda Doucett and her staff at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were pretty excited to move into the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center when it opened back in 2011. The staff on that side of the park had been stuffed into the tiny little “temporary” visitor center next door in the old administration building since 1948, so the brand new $3.5 million building was definitely going to be an upgrade.
But the 2011 move involved change beyond increased floor space and better interpretive displays. The more impressive building enticed more of the visitors driving by to stop in, and because the timing coincided with an overall surge of visitation in the park, there were more passerbys overall.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park marked a milestone last week with the unveiling of 10 new pieces of equipment to make transportation in the park more energy-efficient.
A project four years in the making, the new purchases — made using a $239,000 grant — are just the first phase in a three-year plan to reduce emissions in the park.
Elk and humans are still trying to figure out how to cohabitate in Western North Carolina since the herd was re-introduced to the Cataloochee Valley in 2001.