Loacated in Tennessee and North Carolina
Founder(s): David Chapman, Ann Davis, Paul Fink, Horace Kephart, George Masa, Ben Morton, Mark Squires, Jim Thompson, Charles A. Webb
History of The Great Smokey Mountains: Beginning in 1924 and continuing through the 1930s, Colonel David Chapman played a leading role in the tough battle to bring the park idea to fruition, especially on the Tennessee side of the park. Chapman, president of a Knoxville drug company, became totally committed to the park movement and dealt successfully with multiple obstacles such as opposition from park opponents, lack of funding for land purchase, and controversial condemnation actions. As chairman of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, he was the Tennessee leader for the park campaign and developed close relationships with parties in both TN and NC working toward creation of the national park. Chapman deserves much credit for shaping Great Smoky Mountains National Park as we know it today.
Size of the park: 522,427 acres, divided almost evenly between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee.
Visitation: More than 11.3 million recreational visits in 2016. (This figure does not include the approximately 11 million travelers on the Gatlingburg-Pigeon Forge Spur.) Highest visitation of any of the 59 national parks. The second most heavily visited national park is Grand Canyon with 4.6 million visits, third is Yosemite with 3.8 million, fourth is Yellowstone with 3.2 million. You can access multiple reports about park visitation by typing the park's name into the "Select a park" field at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park
Economic Impact: The park provides an economic hub generating over $734 million in 2013 and supports 10,734 jobs in surrounding communities.
Annual Budget: $18.5 million base budget in Fiscal Year 2014. Great Smoky Mountains is one only a few national parks that does not charge an entrance fee.
Spring - March through May: Spring brings with it unpredictable weather. Changes occur rapidly - sunny skies can yield to snow flurries in a few hours. March is the month with the most radical changes; snow can fall at any time during the month, particularly in the higher elevations. Temperatures in the lower elevations have a mean high of 61ºF. Low temperatures, which are often below freezing, have a mean of 42ºF. By mid-April the weather is usually milder. Daytime temperatures often reach the 70s and occasionally the 80s. Below freezing temperatures at night are uncommon in the lower elevations but still occur higher up. April averages over four inches of rain, usually in the form of afternoon showers. May is warmer, with daytime highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 40s and 50s. May rainfall averages about 4.5 inches.
Summer- June through August: Summer in the Smokies means heat, haze, and humidity. Afternoon showers and thunderstorms are common. Temperatures increase through the period with July and August afternoon highs in the 90s in the lower elevations. Evening lows are usually comfortable with readings in the 60s and 70s. In the higher elevations, the weather is much more pleasant. On Mount Le Conte (6,593' elevation), temperatures above 80 degrees are extremely rare.
Autumn - September through mid-November: Clear skies and cooler weather signal the onset of the fall color season. Warm days alternate with cool nights. Daytime highs are usually in the 70s and 80s during September, falling to the 50s and 60s in early November. The first frosts often occur in late September. By November, the lows are usually near freezing. This is the driest period of the year with only occasional rain showers. In the higher elevations, snow is a possibility by November.
Winter - Mid-November through February: Winter in the Smokies is generally moderate, but extremes in weather do occur, especially with an increase in elevation. It is not unusual to have warm temperatures in the low elevations and snow in the higher areas. About half the days in the winter have high temperatures of 50 degrees or more. Highs occasionally even reach the 70s. Most nights have lows at or below freezing. But lows of -20°F. are possible at high elevations. In the low elevations, snows of 1" or more occur 1-5 times a year. Snow falls more frequently in the higher mountains and up to two feet can fall during a storm. January and February are the months when one is most likely to find snow in the mountains.
Land Forms: The Smokies are among the tallest mountains in the Appalachian chain. Within the park, elevations range from about 875' to 6,643', with sixteen peaks rising more than 5,000 feet. Mount Le Conte towers to 6,593' from a base of 1,292', making it the tallest (but not the highest), mountain in the East. The park's highest summit, Clingmans Dome, is the third tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. In the Smokies high country, over 85" of rain falls on average each year, feeding over 2,100 miles of rushing mountain streams and rivers that flow through the park. The park abounds with the two ingredients essential for waterfalls—water and an elevation gradient. Waterfalls dot the waterways throughout the park, attracting over 200,000 visitors each year to the park's better known falls. The glacial influence on the Smokies climate, coupled with the range of elevation and the southwest to northeast layout of these mountains, accounts for the striking variety of living things found in the park. Five forest types within the park support over 1,500 species of flowering plants and at least 4,000 non-flowering varieties. In fact, the forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are world renowned for their biological diversity. If allowed only one word to justify the Smokies worthiness as a National Park, that word would be plants.
Vegetation: is to Great Smoky Mountains National Park what granite domes and waterfalls are to Yosemite and geysers are to Yellowstone. Variations in elevation, rainfall, temperature, and geology in these ancient mountains provide ideal habitat for over 1,600 species of flowering plants, including 100 native tree species and over 100 native shrub species. the park is also a global center for non-flowering plants, including 450 bryophytes-mosses, liverworts, and a few hornworts. Non-flowering species also include some 50 ferns and fern allies and at least one horsetail.
Why is the park important for preservation and conservation- Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years-from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century. The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home. To learn more, read bout the people who protect the cultural resource of the park, or check out our collections, which include the research library and the Database of the Smokies.
How has the park been impacted by human activity: When the first white settlers reached the Great Smoky Mountains in the late 1700s they found themselves in the land of the Cherokee Indians. Most of the Cherokee were forcibly removed in the 1830s to Oklahoma in a tragic episode known as the "Trail of Tears. The few who remained are the ancestors of the Cherokees living near the park today. Earlier settlers had lived off the land by hunting the wildlife, utilizing the timber for buildings and fences, growing food, and pasturing livestock in the clearings. As the decades passed, many areas that had once been forest became fields and pastures. People farmed, attended church, hauled their grain to the mill, and maintained community ties in a typically rural fashion. The agricultural pattern of life in the Great Smoky Mountains changed with the arrival of lumbering in the early 1900s. Within 20 years, the largely self-sufficient economy of the people here was almost entirely replaced by dependence on manufactured items, store bought food, and cash. Logging boom towns sprang up overnight at sites that still bear their names: Elkmont, Smokemont, Proctor, Tremont. Loggers were rapidly cutting the great primeval forests that remained on these mountains. Unless the course of events could be quickly changed, there would be little left of the region’s special character and wilderness resources. Intervention came when Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934. The forest—at least the 20% that remained uncut within park boundaries—was saved. More than 1,200 land-owners had to leave their land once the park was established. They left behind many farm buildings, mills, schools, and churches. Over 70 of these structures have since been preserved so that Great Smoky Mountains National Park now contains the largest collection of historic log buildings in the East.
What are the future plans for the park: Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, establishing national policy for preserving, protecting, and enhancing air quality. The 1977 amendments designated all national parks that exceed 6,000 acres as mandatory Class I areas worthy of the greatest degree of air quality protection under the Act. Also under the Act, Congress mandates the federal land manager (Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, in the case of the Smokies) to “protect air-quality related values,” including visibility, flora, fauna, surface water, ecosystems, and historic resources. It further directs the land manager to “assume an aggressive role in protecting the air quality values of land areas under his jurisdiction... In cases of doubt the land manager should err on the side of protecting the air quality-related values for future generations.” The Park Service is working with state regulatory agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, and industrial and utility interests to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent future damage through such measures as offset programs, the use of improved technology, and determination of emission caps and government standards for various pollutants. To remedy air pollution problems at the park, additional reductions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are necessary.