Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Great Smoky Mountains



The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. They are a sub range of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province. The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains and the name is commonly shortened to the Smokies. The Great Smokies are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which protects most of the range. The park was established in 1934, and, with over 9 million visits per year, it is the most-visited national park in the United States.

The Great Smokies are part of an International Biosphere Reserve. The range is home to an estimated 187,000 acres (76,000 ha) of old growth forest, constituting the largest such stand east of the Mississippi River. The cove hardwood forests in the range's lower elevations are among the most diverse ecosystems in North America, and the Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest that coats the range's upper elevations is the largest of its kind. The Great Smokies are also home to the densest black bear population in the Eastern United States and the most diverse salamander population outside of the tropics.

Along with the Biosphere reserve, the Great Smokies have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The U.S. National Park Service preserves and maintains 78 structures within the national park that were once part of the numerous small Appalachian communities scattered throughout the range's river valleys and coves. The park contains five historic districts and nine individual listings on the National Register of Historic Places.

The name "Smoky" comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance. This fog, which is most common in the morning and after rainfall, is the result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling rapidly in the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia.

Geography of Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains stretch from the Pigeon River in the northeast to the Little Tennessee River to the southwest. The northwestern half of the range gives way to a series of elongate ridges known as the "Foothills," the outermost of which include Chilhowee Mountain and English Mountain. The range is roughly bounded on the south by the Tuckasegee River and to the southeast by Soco Creek and Jonathan Creek. The Great Smokies comprise parts of Blount County, Sevier County, and Cocke County in Tennessee and Swain County and Haywood County in North Carolina.

The sources of several rivers are located in the Smokies, including the Little Pigeon River, the Oconaluftee River, and Little River. Streams in the Smokies are part of the Tennessee River watershed and are thus entirely west of the Eastern Continental Divide. The largest stream wholly within the park is Abrams Creek, which rises in Cades Cove and empties into the Chilhowee Lake impoundment of the Little Tennessee River near Chilhowee Dam. Other major streams include Hazel Creek and Eagle Creek in the southwest, Raven Fork near Oconaluftee, Cosby Creek near Cosby, and Roaring Fork near Gatlinburg. The Little Tennessee River passes through five impoundments along the range's southwestern boundary, namely Tellico Lake, Chilhowee Lake, Calderwood Lake, Cheoah Lake, and Fontana Lake.

Geology of Great Smoky Mountains

Most of the rocks in the Great Smoky Mountains consist of Late Precambrian rocks that are part of a formation known as the Ocoee Supergroup. The Ocoee Supergroup consists primarily of slightly metamorphosed sandstones, phyllites, schists, and slate. Early Precambrian rocks, which include the oldest rocks in the Smokies, comprise the dominant rock type in the Raven Fork Valley (near Oconaluftee) and upper Tuckasegee River between Cherokee and Bryson City. They consist primarily of metamorphic gneiss, granite, and schist. Cambrian sedimentary rocks are found among the outer reaches of the Foothills to the northwest and in limestone coves such as Cades Cove.

The Precambrian gneiss and schists— the oldest rocks in the Smokies— formed over a billion years ago from the accumulation of marine sediments and igneous rock in a primordial ocean. In the Late Precambrian period, this ocean expanded, and the more recent Ocoee Supergroup rocks formed from accumulations of the eroding land mass onto the ocean's continental shelf. By the end of the Paleozoic era, the ancient ocean had deposited a thick layer of marine sediments which left behind sedimentary rocks such as limestone. During the Ordovician period, the North American and African plates collided, destroying the ancient ocean and initiating the Alleghenian orogeny— the mountain-building epoch that created the Appalachian range. The Mesozoic era saw the rapid erosion of the softer sedimentary rocks from the new mountains, re-exposing the older Ocoee Supergroup formations.

Around 20,000 years ago, subarctic glaciers advanced southward across North America, and although they never reached the Smokies, the advancing glaciers led to colder mean annual temperatures and an increase in precipitation throughout the range. Trees were unable to survive at the higher elevations, and were replaced by tundra vegetation. Spruce-fir forests occupied the valleys and slopes below approximately 4,950 feet (1,510 m). The persistent freezing and thawing during this period created the large blockfields that are often found at the base of large mountain slopes. Between 16,500 and 12,500 years ago, the glaciers to the north retreated and mean annual temperatures rose. The tundra vegetation disappeared, and the spruce-fir forests retreated to the highest elevations. Hardwood trees moved into the region from the coastal plains, replacing the spruce-fir forests in the lower elevations. The temperatures continued warming until around 6,000 years ago, when they began to gradually grow cooler.

Culture and tourism at Smoky Mountains:

The culture of the area is that of Southern Appalachia, and previously the Cherokee people. Tourism is key to the area's economy, particularly in cities like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina.

Rafting, either leisurely river tubing or in full whitewater, is common all summer. Downhill skiing is also done in winter, though for a short season, at places like Cataloochee and Ober Gatlinburg.

Country music singer Dolly Parton was born and raised on a small farm in the Smokies. She writes many songs concerning her Tennessee upbringing, and starred in the 1986 film, A Smoky Mountain Christmas.

On September 17, 2010, the documentary reality television series Man, Woman, Wild featured an episode about survival in the Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park photos:



Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Smoky Mountains, Culture and tourism at Smoky Mountains, Geology of Great Smoky Mountains, Geography of Great Smoky Mountains and more