The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an 800-square-mile mountain wilderness that is federally owned and managed by the National Park Service. It protects the largest swatch of upland forest east of the Mississippi.
It is surrounded by over 1.6 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands which help provide Great Smoky Mountains visitors with breath-taking views of row-after-row of mountains and ridges stretching to the horizon with only the most scattered evidence of human development – a rare sight in the heavily-populated Eastern U.S.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, with more than 11 million visitors a year, roughly triple the number that come to Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks. These visitors are drawn by the sweeping mountain views, 730 miles of pristine mountain streams, carpets of wildflowers and a lush forest that lead to the Park’s recognition as an “International Biosphere Reserve.” It is home to abundant wildlife including black bears, elk, white-tailed deer and 200 species of birds.
The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee have had a long history of settlers, starting with the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early Europeans to loggers in the 20th century. Visitors are able to visit almost 80 preserved log cabins, churches, grist mills and historic landscapes that serve as “windows” into the lives of the rugged Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled the mountain in the early 19th century. The history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is rich and as interesting as the park is beautiful!
The creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a drastic departure from the process by which earlier national parks, mostly in the West, were established – by act of Congress from lands already in public ownership. The idea of creating a national park in the Southern Appalachians came from local individuals in the communities surrounding what would become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Prominent individuals in those communities had visited Western parks and saw how they were protecting some of America’s most beautiful landscapes and disappearing wildlife. They also saw how creation of a national park could bring with it good roads, new jobs and an infusion of tourist spending. Unlike these Western parks all of the land in the East had been in private ownership for generations and would need to be purchased, parcel by parcel. Those local leaders led an effort that resulted in the States of North Carolina and Tennessee to appropriate funding, which was later matched by donations to purchase the 6,600 tracts of private land that had to be acquired to create the Park. No federal money was originally provided to purchase land for the Smokies.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738