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 Great Smoky Mts. National Park
 Tennessee and North Carolina

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National Parks Photography by Russ Finley




















Visitor Centers
Open All Year
(except Christmas Day)

Visitor Centers are located
at Sugarlands, Oconaluftee,
and Cades Cove.



Ridge upon ridge of endless forest straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, and the depth and integrity of its wilderness sanctuary, the park attracts over nine million visitors each year. Once a part of the Cherokee homeland, the Smokies today are a hiker's paradise with over 800 miles of trails. The trails range from easy to difficult and provide half hour walks to week-long backpacking trips. The Appalachian Trail runs for 70 miles along the Park's top ridge. Pets are not allowed on any trails except for the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Backcountry camping requires a permit.

Prior to 1819, Cades Cove was part of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee called the cove Tsiyahi, "place of the river otter." In addition to river otters, elk and eastern bison lived in the Cove. Most large animals were extirpated before white settlement. The Cherokee tried to integrate European technologies and culture with their own. They built log and frame houses, attended school and by 1820 had a written language. The 1830 U.S. census showed more than 1,000 slaves working on Cherokee plantations.

Despite the Cherokee's lifestyle, many Americans wanted to move all Indians west of the Mississippi River. The discovery of gold on Cherokee lands in Georgia, and Andrew Jackson's rise to the Presidency, led to Indian removal and the tragic "Trail of Tears." More than 14,000 Cherokees left the Southern Appalachians in 1838. Less than 10,000 reached Oklahoma. Some of the Cherokee refused to move and hid in the Smoky Mountain wilderness. In the 1870s the Eastern Band of the Cherokee reclaimed some of their lands in western North Carolina. This land is known today as the Qualla Boundary.

By 1850 the American population of Cades Cove reached 685 men, women, and children. Settlers farmed the rich fertile limestone-based soils, shopped at local general stores, and made frequent trips to nearby Tuckaleechee Cove, now Townsend, TN. With five roads in and out of the cove, the settlers were not as isolated as the cove appears today.

The majority of Cades Cove residents supported the United States during the Civil War. Harassed by their confederate neighbors, cove families welcomed the end of the war and a return to their rural lifestyle. Churches and schools provided a social and spiritual education to young and old alike. Sacred Harp singing schools attracted hundreds of outsiders to the cove each year and many cove residents sent their children to colleges in communities outside the cove.

But America was expanding westward, and the cove population never recovered its pre-war growth and numbers. In 1900 the logging industry brought wage employment and added income to the mountain people. Alcoa opened its first factories in nearby Maryville, TN, and more and more people began to leave the area. The establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park continued the outward migration from the Cove that ended in 1999 when the last resident, Kermit Caughron, died.


  Images and text courtesy of National Park Service.




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