DOTW:The Great Smoky Mts
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|Mon, 08-18-2003 - 4:24pm|
In 1934 the people of North Carolina and Tennessee donated the Great Smoky Mountains to the Federal Government, creating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Park on September 2, 1940. Today the Park contains more than 521,000 acres in the two states.
Great Smoky National Park is located in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, it encompasses 800 square miles of which 95 percent are forested. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal resources, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of American pioneer culture, and the depth and integrity of the wilderness sanctuary within its boundaries, it is one of the largest protected areas in the east.
The National Park Service maintains developed campgrounds at 10 locations in the park. They are Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Look Rock, and Smokemont. Each campground has restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets, but there are no showers or electrical or water hookups in the park. Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table.
During summer and fall, sites at Elkmont, Smokemont, and Cades Cove may be reserved. For reservations call 1-800-365-2267 (park code GRE)
Reservations are accepted only for May 15-Oct 31. Sites may be reserved up to five months in advance. All other campgrounds are first-come, first serve.
No more than six people may occupy a campsite. Two tents or one RV and one tent are allowed per site. Maximum stay during summer and fall is seven days. Maximum stay during the off-season is 14 days. Pets are allowed in campgrounds as long as they are restrained on a leash or otherwise confined at all times. Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Park campgrounds are located in areas frequented by bears and other wildlife. All food, coolers, utensils, stoves, etc, must be stored out of sight in a closed vehicle when not in use. Do not throw food scraps or packaging in fire rings. Feeding wildlife is prohibited.
Abrams Creek Campground
Open From mid March To October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 16 sites and is at elevation 1,125 feet. It has no electric hookups or shower facilities, running water and bathroom facilities only. $12 each night.
Balsam Mountain Campground
Open From mid May To mid October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 46 sites and is at elevation 5,310 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilites, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14 each night.
Big Creek Campground
Open From mid March To October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 12 sites and is for tents only. It sits at elevation 1,700 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $12 each night. Group camping is also available.
Cades Cove Campground
Phone at 1-800-365-CAMP
Open All Year
Reservations accepted up to five months in advance for May 15 - Oct. 31 occupancy. Other dates first-come, first-serve. This campground has 159 sites and sits at elevation 1,807 feet. No campground has shower facilities or electric hookups, only running water and bathroom facilities. Cades Cove Campground Store sells convenience items, groceries, camping supplies, and a limited selection of hot and cold deli items. There are no other food facilities in the park. Numerous convenience stores and restaurant establishments are located in outlying communities. $14-17 each night. Group camping is also available.
Open From mid March to October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 27 sites and sits at elevation 2,610 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $12 each night. Group camping is also available.
Open From mid March to October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 157 sites and sits at elevation 2,459 feet. No campground has shower facilities or electric hookups, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14 each night. Group camping is also available.
Deep Creek Campground
Open From April to October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 92 sites and sits at elevation 1,800 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14 each night. Group camping is also available.
Phone at 1-800-365-CAMP
Open From mid March To November
Reservations accepted up to five months in advance for May 15 - Oct. 31 occupancy. Other dates first-come, first-serve. This campground has 220 sites and sits at elevation 2,150 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14-20 each night. Group camping is also available.
Look Rock Campground
Open From mid May To October
First-come, first serve. This campground has 92 sites and sits at elevation 2,600 feet. No campground has electric hookups or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14 each night.
Phone at 1-800-365-CAMP
Open All Year
Reservations accepted up to five months in advance for May 15 - Oct. 31 occupancy. Other dates first-come,first-serve.This campground has 142 sites and sits at elevation 2,198 feet. No campground has electric hookup or shower facilities, only running water and bathroom facilities. $14-$17 each night. Group camping is also available.
Group Camping at Great Smoky Mountains
The park has seven areas where groups may camp. You must have reservations to stay at these areas. These areas will accommodate tents only. Trailers, campers, or other wheeled units are not permitted. Also be aware that showers and electric hookups are not available.
The minimum party size is eight, and the maximum length of stay is seven nights in these areas. Check out time is noon. You are welcome to call the ranger station to obtain site-specific information, but be aware that the ranger stations are field offices and are not staffed during all hours!
All group campsites require reservations. To make reservations for any group campsite, you must call the National Park Reservation Service. 800/365-2267
Camping dates may be reserved up to five months in advance, and payment is required at the time the reservation is made.
The Smokies offer activities for visitors of various ages and interests. Recommended activities include camping, hiking the park's more than 800 miles of trails, picnicking, sightseeing, fishing, auto touring, horseback riding, nature viewing, and photographic opportunities abound. Guided horseback rides are available in season at five horse stables in the park in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Waterfalls of the Smokies
Waterfalls adorn most every stream in the Smokies. Only one waterfall, Meigs Falls, is visible from the road. It is 12.9 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near the Townsend Wye. All others require hiking, and range from easy to strenuous. Below is a listing of the Smokies' best known falls:
Laurel Falls is the easiest waterfall hike on the Tennessee side of the park. It is 2.5 miles roundtrip, and follows a paved trail. The trail cuts through the middle of a series of cascades. Laurel Falls is 60 feet high.
Grotto Falls is off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is 2.4 miles roundtrip through a hemlock- dominated forest. Grotto Falls is distinctive as the only waterfall in the park one can walk behind.
Chasteen Creek Falls is a 4-mile roundtrip hike out of the Smokemont Campground. A small, but graceful fall, this area makes for a good moderate hike.
Indian Creek Falls is a 1.5 mile roundtrip hike out of the Deep Creek Area. Sliding down 35 feet of sloping rock strata, the water livens and cools the air. Along the route is Toms Branch Falls, another beautiful fall.
Henwallow Falls is near Cosby Campground, south of Cosby, Tennessee. It is 4.4 miles roundtrip along a moderate trail. This 45-foot fall receives less visitation than many other area falls.
Abrams Falls has the largest water volume of any park fall, and is among the most photogenic. Abrams Falls is a 5-mile roundtrip hike. The trail begins in the back of Cades Cove loop road and is a moderate hike.
Ramsay Cascades is a strenuous 8-mile roundtrip hike. The trailhead begins in the Greenbrier Area. A magnificent scene, Ramsay Cascades tumbles over 100 feet among a spectacular setting.
Rainbow Falls, at 80 feet, is the highest single plunge water takes in the park. It is a 5.5-mile roundtrip hike. It is rated between moderate and strenuous. This trail akes a good challenge and reveals a beautiful fall. These are the Smokies' most popular falls.
Hiking in the Smokies
More than 850 miles of hiking trails traverse the Great Smoky Mountains. They 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. Many people choose to hike in the Park during the Spring because of the abundance and diversity of wildflowers.
It is important to be well versed before exploring the backcountry. Here are a few basics to help you get started:
Always hike with another person.
Always bring a small flashlight.
Always bring water.
All water taken from the backcountry should be treated.
Let someone know your route and return time.
Wear appropriate shoes.
Carry a small first aid kit.
Be informed on the weather and be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
Check current weather conditions.
With so many options, the Smokies offer a tremendous number of hiking opportunities. Mentioned below are a few of the most popular and/or exciting destinations:
Alum Cave Trail
This is a 4.4 mile roundtrip hike, rated moderate. It includes Arch Rock, a natural arch, Inspiration Point, and the Alum Cave Bluff. Inspiration Point offers a spectacular view of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River's upper basin. The bluff resulted from Confederate mining of saltpeter during the Civil War. This trail continues to Mt. LeConte, and its beautiful viewpoints. Roundtrip distance from the parking to LeConte is 10 miles.
This is a 4 mile roundtrip hike, rated strenuous. It is a steep climb to two rock spires 4,755 feet in elevation. From the top they provide a spectacular 360-degree view.
A 3.6 mile roundtrip hike, rated moderate. This hike heads downslope to a bald. Excellent views open to the south, toward Fontana Lake, and in spring the azalea explode with color. This trail head is not accessible by car from 12/1 to 4/1.
This 8-mile roundtrip hike is rated strenuous. Following the Appalachian Trail, this hike goes out to rocky cragsalong the state-line ridge. It has excellent views.
Bicycles can travel on most roads within the park. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is the exception. The Foothills Parkway provides good biking opportunities. Cyclists may traverse the parkway's unfinished portions. Cades Cove offers another great riding opportunity. The loop road periodically closes to motorized vehicles. It will close to motor vehicle traffic from May-September until 10 a.m. each Wednesday and Saturday. Bike rental is available in the Cove. For more information call (865) 448-9034.
No mountain biking trails are available. A few graveled trails, including the Gatlinburg Trail and Oconaluftee River Trail, allow bicycles. For more extensive mountain biking opportunities, visit the Tsali Recreation Area near Fontana Village, NC, or take a trip to Big South Fork National Recreation Area.
Safety is always a major concern where cars and bicycles must share the road. Please wear helmets, use rear view mirrors, and follow all traffic regulations.
Fishing in the Smokies
Anglers 13 years and older (16 and older in NC) need a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license to fish in the Park. The Park does not sell licenses. Check with local chambers of commerce for purchase information. No trout stamp is needed. Fishing is permitted year-round in open waters, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Stop by a park visitor center to get a full copy of the regulations.
Daily possession limits:
Any combination of rainbow trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass totaling 5
It is illegal to possess brook trout
A person must stop fishing once reaching the limit
Rainbow and brown trout: 7in. minimum
Smallmouth bass: 7in. minimum
Rockbass: no minimum
All brook trout and any fish below the minimum must be immediately returned to the water
Lures, bait, and equipment:
Only one hand-held rod may be used
Single hook only
Bait must be fully artificial
Liquid scents are prohibited
All equipment is subject to inspection by authorized Park staff
A few words about brook trout and other fish. Brook trout are the only trout native to the Smokies. Heavy logging during the early 1900s eliminated the fish from half its range. Brown trout and rainbow trout, stocked in the mid 1900s, outcompeted the brook trout, further limiting its range. Restoring the brook trout to its native range is a primary objective. The goal of the brook trout restoration program is to foster a self-sustaining natural population able to support angling pressure. Streams
populated only by brook trout are closed to help this be a future reality. In total 40 species of fish including darters, dace, suckers, bass, shiners, and trout populate the Smokies' streams. Salamanders, crayfish, aquatic insects, and algae are other important components of local aquatic ecosystems.
About 550 miles of the Park's hiking trails are open to horses. There are five horse camps: Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Roundbottom, and Towstring. Use of the horse camps requires a reservation. Reservations can be made by calling the National Park Reservation Service at (800) 365-2267 or via the Internet at http://reservations.nps.gov.
The Park also has five commercial stables within its borders. They are open from approximately mid-March through the Thanksgiving season. Prices average $20/hr. For moreinformation call the numbers below:
Cades Cove (865)448-6286 (also offers hayrides and carriage rides)
Smokemont (828) 497-2373
Smoky Mountain (865)436-5634
Swimming is a favorite way to escape the summer heat. However, Park waters are dangerous and caution is a must. Swim at your own risk, and watch children carefully. The Park does not recommend any specific swimming area for this reason. Since Park waters rarely rise above 65F degrees, hypothermia is a year-round risk.
Practicing Water Safety is a must while visiting the Park. Serious water-related injuries occur every year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drowning is the second leading cause of death after driving accidents. These injuries can easily be avoided. Please remember:
1) There are no life-guarded swimming areas in the Park. Swimming is not recommended.
2) Never dive into Park rivers or streams. Hidden rocks and other obstructions exist even in seemingly deep pools.
3) Never try to climb to the top of a waterfall. The rocks are coated with slippery algae, and several fatal falls have occurred.
4) Hikers must use good judgment when deciding to cross large or rain-swollen streams. It is better to turn back or wait for flooding streams to recede than risk your life in cold, swift waters.
The Park has specific sites set aside for picnicking. Some, including Chimneys, Deep Creek, Cades Cove, and Cosby, remain open year-round. Other sites include Greenbrier, Big Creek, and Collins Creek. Balsam Mountain and Look Rock are closed for renovations. Most picnic areas in the Park have pavilions. To reserve a pavilion, please call 1-800-365-2267 or by clicking here. The cost is $20. Please remember that feeding bears and other wildlife often leads to the animals' death. Clean up after a meal. Thank you.
Ranger-led programs are offered during the summer and fall seasons in the park.
Hope you've enjoyed reading about the Great Smokies as much as I have. Armchair travel at it's best!