Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee. National Park Great Smoky Mountains on the map of USA

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Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee. National Park Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee on the map of USA

Below: Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than its share of black bear. Though they may look harmless, they are wild animals and can be dangerous.

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee

Established: 1934   Acreage: 520,269

The Great Smoky Mountains, the majestic apex of the Appalachian Highlands, are a wildlands sanctuary preserving the world's finest examples of temperate deciduous forest. Over 100 species of trees—more than in all of Northern Europe—grow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The name Smoky comes from the smoke-like haze enveloping the mountains, which stretch in sweeping troughs and mighty billows to the horizon.

The Smokies have a rich cultural history. For hundreds of years the Smokies were a part of the huge mountain empire of the Cherokee Indians under their great chief, Sequoyah. In the 1770s they sided with the British against the colonists. When white settlers came in from the north and from Virginia and South Carolina, the Indians began to be crowded out. During the winter of 1838, the government marched most of them to a new home in Oklahoma. In the years that followed, the land was worked by hardy and determined Scotch-Irish settlers who developed a unique way of life in their isolated surroundings.

When the park was established over 1200 tracts of the land purchased were farms owned by these people. As a result of this purchase, the park has an unequalled collection of log buildings, including large, two-story dwellings and grist mills, totalling over 77 historic structures in all. Restored log cabins and barns punctuate the park's wild qualities, making for a delightful mix of forest wildlands and an outdoor museum of pioneer life.

From the Tennessee side, at Cades Cove, there is an 11-mile loop drive through a pastoral Smokies scene with restored buildings and an old mill. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is the first stop on the North Carolina side. The nearby Pioneer Farmstead lets visitors see how the early mountain people lived. Just up the road into the park is Mingus Mill, a large water-powered mill for grinding corn. Sugarlands and Oconaluftee are connected by the Newfound Gap Road, which the Appalachian Trail crosses. The roads are only an introduction to the Smokies, however. Some 900 miles of trails thread the whole of the Smokies' natural fabric —its waterfalls, coves and rushing streams.

 

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee. National Park Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee on the map of USA