Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
by Tesa Nauman© 2007, All Rights Reserved
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina. On the Tennessee side, the resort town of Gatlinburg serves as a gateway to the Park. The word “Smoky” in its name is spelled without the letter “e.”
The Park’s convenient location – it’s within a day’s drive of one-third of the continental United States – and its incredible natural beauty have made it the nation’s most visited national park, with nearly 10 million visitors each year.
It is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations and is a unit of the Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere Reserve cluster.
Congress mandated the Park’s creation in 1934, but it wasn’t until 1940 that President Franklin D. dedicated it in a ceremony held at Newfound Gap, located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Before the Park’s creation, logging was the main industry in the region. The timber companies stripped, burned or cut down all the trees in two-thirds of what is now in the Park. Most of the lumber removed from the Park went to New York City and London, England.
GSMNP is the only national park in the U.S. that is free to visit. All other national parks charge an entrance fee. The Park doesn’t charge a fee is because of John D. Rockefeller. He donated $5 million towards the Park’s creation with the stipulation that no fee could be charged for visiting the Park.
The Park is 80 miles long, 33 miles wide, consists of 520,000 acres and 800,000 square miles, and is home to 1,500 species of flowering plants and 4,000 non-flowering plants.
The Smokies also are the largest natural habitat of the black bear in North America.
The Smokies is the only home to the red-cheeked salamander (also called Jordan’s salamander), Cain's reed-bent grass and Rugel's ragwort. They are found no place else on the planet.
Each year, thousands of people visit the section of the Park known as Elkmont each summer to view the rare synchronized firefly. Elkmont is one of only a handful of places on the planet that this interesting animal calls home. Synchronized fireflies simultaneously flash in unison for several seconds, then stop for about 10 seconds, then start flashing together again. Naturalists think this behavior may be part of a mating ritual, but aren’t totally sure.
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