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It’s no secret that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the country! And it’s no surprise why either. With more than 850 miles of hiking trails, 2,900 miles of streams and a wide variety of wildlife, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Even though the park is so well known, it still has some secrets hidden away that not many people know. Check out these shocking secrets of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
1. It Was the First National Park to Be Partially Federally Funded
You’re most likely aware that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few national parks that doesn’t have an entrance fee, but did you know it was the first park to be established in part by federal funds? That’s right — more than $4 million was contributed by the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, and another $1 million was raised by individuals, private groups and even school children who donated their change. The remaining $5 million needed to purchase the land was donated by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund.
2. There Was Actually a Lot of Drama Surrounding the Creation of the Park
Though we all love visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there were some who were not as thrilled about its creation. When the park was formed, it forced the removal of the existing towns in the area. There were thousands of small farms, large tracts and more that had to be surveyed and appraised, not to mention the timber and paper companies that required compensation for their valuable equipment. The worst, however, were the people who had an emotional attachment to the area. They were unhappy to leave family members who were buried in the cemeteries there, churches where they had worshipped their whole lives and homes they’d grown to love. Some were given lifetime leases to remain in their homes until they passed away, and others could be granted leases on a short-term basis, but they were not permitted to cut timber or hunt and had to change their way of living.
3. It’s the Salamander Capital of the World
One of the most interesting secrets of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that it’s the salamander capital of the world! The majority of backboned animals in the park, including human visitors, on any given day are salamanders! There are more than 30 different species of of salamanders in the park, making them the biggest group of amphibians. Each of the species has its own unique set of characteristics. One of the best places to see some of the salamanders is by Grotto Falls, which offers a cool and moist environment.
4. There are 19 Species of Fireflies in the Park
Salamanders aren’t the only unique species in the park. There are 19 species of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Each year, the park holds an event during which visitors have the chance to see the synchronous fireflies light up the night. The synchronous fireflies are just one of the 19 species of fireflies found in the park and are the only species who can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
5. The Fog Comes from Rain and Vegetation
It’s no secret that the Smoky Mountains are, well, smoky. But do you know where the smoky haze comes from? It’s actually fog that comes from rain and the area’s vegetation. The Smoky Mountains get a high amount of rainfall, which results in a dense fog. Also, the trees, bushes and plants in the area all give off vapor that creates the fog. Plants exhale volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure and can cause fog. To find out more about the fog in the Smoky Mountains, read our blog, “What Makes the Smoky Mountains Smoky.”
6. The Smoky Mountains Are a Day’s Drive from 2/3s of the United States’ Population
You read that right — the Smoky Mountains are just a day’s drive from over 60 percent of the nation’s population! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the most convenient location, right near Interstate Highway 40. Its great location is one of the reasons it is the most-visited national park in the country! Some major cities that are close to the park are Asheville, NC, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN and Lexington, KY. Asheville is about a 2-hour drive from the park, and the rest are about a 4-hour drive.
Now that you know all the hidden secrets of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to plan your visit! Start by browsing all the cabin rentals in the Smoky Mountains and get ready to have an amazing time experiencing all that the Smokies have to offer.