The largest National Park east of the
Rocky Mountains, the Great Smokies
have a colorful 300 million year history.
Home to a rich and enchanting forest that straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers its visitors row after row of amazing views and remnants of the Southern Appalachian way of life. Early November showcases the last of the spectacular fall foliage season, but no matter when you go, the Smokies gifts plenty of wildlife sightings, winding trails and those oh so majestic mountains. Here are a few favorite fun facts about what makes the Smokies so special:
The Most Visited Park in the USA
With approximately 10 million visitors annually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country’s most visited, and the Park is happy to accommodate. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (although certain secondary roads, campgrounds and visitor facilities
are closed during winter). To give you an idea of just how popular the Smokies are, while they host 10 million guests a year, the Grand Canyon National Park receives less than 5 million visitors annually. Besides its beauty, the Smokies’ Park has another important appeal – it’s absolutely free to visit, all year long.
The Salamander Capital of the World
It’s not all bears and bunnies in these mountains…The Great Smokies are officially titled the “Salamander Capital of the World,” thanks to an unrivaled diversity and abundance of salamanders. Learn about these interesting amphibians as you keep your eyes peeled for
any of the 24 different species of lungless salamanders who make their home in the Great Smokies National Park.
The sole National Park created through private funding
In 1934, the National Park Service knew they wanted to preserve an area in the eastern part of the country, in spite of not having the funds to purchase the land. Through the help of North Carolina and Tennessee locals, as well as $2 million from the United States government and a substantial donation by John D. Rockefeller (to the tune of $5 million
dollars) the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created and this special piece of land forever preserved.
Home to hundreds of 100 year old trees
Most national parks have 20 native trees; the Smokies tout over 100 native tree species,
a third of which are over 100 years old! Even FDR was taken with the Smokies’ trees and its history: “There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, and the thrush for the happiness of the American people.”
Celebrating the Centennial
100 years ago, the United States created
the National Park Service,
a federal agency designed to preserve
the breathtaking beauty of the American
landscape. Visit LifestylesAfter50.com for
our Celebrate the Centennial series as we
highlight our favorite parks all year long.