Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Written by Sudhir Kumar

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a United States National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park. It is the most visited national park in the United States. On its route from Maine toGeorgia, the Appalachian Trail also passes through the center of the park popular travel destinations. The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934 and officially dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. It encompasses 522,419 acres (816.28 sq mi; 2,114.15 km2), making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. It was the first national park whose land and other costs were paid for in part with federal funds; previous parks were funded wholly with state money or private funds.


Congress established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on 15 Jun 1934, and turned its stewardship to the National Park Service. Land acquisition continued and on 02 Sep 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park. In 1923 when Mrs. Willis P. Davis of Knoxville visited the American West, she fell in love with America’s National Parks. Mrs. Davis felt the Smoky Mountains were worthy of such status. It is with this thought the Park Movement was born. Park support came slowly. Debates raged over who would buy the land and whether the Smokies should become a National Forest or National Park. Many local politicians in both North Carolina and Tennessee supported the Park because they never thought it could happen. Much of the support surrounded the construction of an improved road between Knoxville and Asheville, not the Park itself. After a long and difficult struggle, the concept of a park in the Smoky Mountains became a reality. Colonel David Chapman was the leading figure supporting the future National Park. Land was difficult to buy despite the park movement. Greed, private property rights, and personal glory often clashed with government condemnation and the park movement. After buying about half the land, it was deeded to the Federal Government. Congress established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on June 15, 1934, and turned its stewardship to the National Park Service. Land acquisition continued and on September 2, 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park.

Environmental Concerns

Threats to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park come in many forms. Some are obvious and indisputable while others are more subtle and a source of controversy. Man is the root cause for some of the problems, while nature produces and enhances others. Despite the spectrum of political beliefs, the facts remain, and the real problems facing the Smokies require monitoring and management. Insuring the survival of the Smokies’ ecosystem is a major charge given to the National Park Service. Pests and disease also threaten the Smokies’ ecosystem. Currently the most visible and serious threat is the balsam woolly adelgid. The small wax-covered insect attacks the Park’s Fraser fir trees. The fir overreacts to the feeding adelgids, clogging its transport tissues. Trees die within five years of infection. Other pests and diseases affecting park ecosystems include chestnut blight, southern pine beetle, and dogwood anthracnose. The future promises additional problems. Gypsy moths, currently near the Virginia-Tennessee border threaten oak forests with total destruction. The hemlock woolly adelgid could eliminate Park hemlocks, and destroy the entire forest type. Both pests came from Europe. Exotics are species not part of the original ecosystems. Most exotics blend well with native species, but some create problems. Many are small organisms such as the balsam woolly adelgid. The Park works to eliminate problem exotics. Kudzu, mimosa trees, multiflora rose, and the European wild boar are among the Park’s worst exotics. Great Smoky Mountains National Park  is a Beautiful Place For Vacations.


Acreage – as of September 23, 2000
Federal Land – 520,976.63
Non-Federal Land – 644.52
Gross Area Acres – 521,621.15

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Sudhir Kumar

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