Great Smoky Mountain National Park
|Photos by Lou Kellenberger
Lou's GSMNP Gallery
The famous blue haze of the Smoky Mountains blankets a series of mountain ridges that seem to extend into the distance forever. Known as Shaconage (meaning land of blue smoke) to the Cherokee, the trees give off a vapor called isoprene that hovers over the forest. It was this blue haze that inspired the Smoky Mountain and Blue Ridge names. One of America's first frontiers, each year these formidable peaks will dazzle its visitors will brilliant hues of autumn's foliage.
At one time this territory was sacred to the Cherokee Indians. European settlers began to move into this area in the early 1800s, steadily pushing out the Native Americans. Over four decades, the Cades Cove area grew to support a community of nearly 700 people. Established during the 1920s and 30s, the National Park Service preserved many of the Cades Cove cabins, barns, grist mills and churches.
Today, the park is one of Americaís most popular parklands. Spread across the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park provides visitor centers at Sugarlands, Cades Cove, and Oconaluftee. Along with hundreds and hundreds of plant species, the park is also famous for its wildlife. Visitors may easily spot large mammals, including white-tailed deer, black bear, red fox and wild hogs. Early risers may be treated to close up views of resident elk as in this marvelous scene at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
When commercial logging threatened the area during the late 1800s, Congress authorized protection as a national park in 1926. Finally established in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was one of the first American parks assembled from private lands. Among the park's massive acreage, visitors will find one of the world's most diverse plant and forest communities. At the Chimneys Picnic Area, located on Newfound Gap Road, hikers may wander among an old growth forest that loggers had missed. Along the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, the forest is covered in Carolina silverbell, yellow birch, hickory, and towering hemlocks. In late spring, you may find this forest floor covered with a carpet of wildflowers.
Much of the parkís splendid scenery can be witnessed along Newfound Gap Road. This steep, winding route, a highway to the sky, climbs up from the lowlands toward the parkís highest peak. A short side road climbs through a forest of Frasier fir and red spruce on route to Clingmans Dome.
Although much of the Smokies can be seen from your car, the rewards are much greater on self guided trails and inviting footpaths. Here, visitors may find an intimate introduction to some of this park's natural treasures. Whether itís the enjoyment of distant mountain views, discovering the the history behind the cabins of Cades Cove, the gurgle of a sparkling brook, a soothing waterfall, or the brilliant autumn foliage of a magnificent hardwood forest, visitors return year after to one of America's most outstanding parklands.
Additional Points of Interest
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