Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wilderness Act Celebration at the Sugarlands Visitor Center

In honor of the Wilderness Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago, the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) will be hosting a celebration from 9:30am to 2pm Saturday September 27th at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg Tennessee.

This important Act to Protect Wilderness areas has allowed 109 million acres in 44 states to be protected in areas that are "untrammeled by man" so that it may continue "retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation."

The Wilderness Act Celebration in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will feature speaker Ed Zahniser, son of Howard Zhaniser who was widely regarded as the "Father of the Wilderness Act." And will kick off at 9:30 am with the Showing of the films "Wild By Law" and "Sanctuary" in the Sugarlands theater.

At 11:00 am there will be an hour long panel discussion on how wilderness principles have guided park management through the years. The discussion will be moderated by former Great Smoky Mountains national park backcountry specialist, George Minnigh and will include long-time GSMNP volunteer, Ray Payne, President of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, historian Ed Fleming, and Bill Hart.

At 1:00 pm Keynote Speaker Ed Zahniser will speak about his father's role in getting the Wilderness Act written and passed, as well as his family's relationship with one of the founders of the Wilderness Society, Knoxville attorney, Harvey Broome.

Howard Zhaniser and Harvey Broome

The celebration continues tomorrow Sunday, September 28th at 8:30 am when the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club will be lead a hike from Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald. This scenic portion of the Appalachian Trail is part of the famous 1966 "Save Our Smokies Wilderness" hike led by Harvey Broome and others, during which more than 500 hikers came to or passed over Silers Bald.

This is a strenuous hike that steadily climbs around 1,200 feet in elevation and only those prepared with proper clothing and in excellent physical condition should attempt this hike by meeting at Sugarlands Visitors Center in the west side parking area near the restrooms.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Firefly Viewing Dates in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Besides Leaf Peeping in the fall, the most popular event that takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains nation park each spring occurs when the synchronized fireflies in Elkmont draw about 1,000 spectators each night to which their miraculous matting light show.

More than a dozen species of lightning bugs inhabit the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP), but everyone is here to see just one of them the famous Photinus carolinus the Synchronous Firefly of the Smokies.

What makes the Synchronous Firefly of the Smokies so special as to attract so many people to the GSMNP is the unusual pattern of flashing which appears to be synchronized which is even more spectacular in certain parts of the park that have high concentrations of fireflies as well as no light pollution so they appear to be brighter and not effected by man made light as well.

Lots of people in the dark wandering around means that only a select few places are safe and particle to put everyone so the national park has been running special firefly shuttle trolleys as a ticketed event to Elkmont which is the safest and most practical area.

Since the fireflies emerge and use their synchronous flashing in order to mate is dependent upon weather, the prediction of the best time to see the fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountain national park a month or more in advance is part science and part educated guess. Most years the GSMNP firefly event is predicted very accurately.

The 2014 firefly season is predicted to peak between June 4th to June 11th in Elkmont where the firefly event take place and tickets will start going on sale at 10 am Wednesday April 30th and are expected to sell out very quickly. Additional tickets (85) will be released for sale online each day of the event as well. These generally sell out quickly as well.

Tickets for parking at $1.50 each and rides on the trolley cost $1 per person. None of the ticket and parking pass revenue ends up in the park as it is used to cover the cost of the reservation system.

2014 Firefly Viewing Dates in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

For detailed information about fireflies in the GSMNP and how to buy a ticket for the firefly shuttle or firefly biology you can click here.

Related Smokies Fireflies News Stories

Synchronized Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Allows Temporary Lane Closures on Southbound Spur.

In order to allow Sevier County Electric System (SCES) to replace six electric poles along the southbound Spur, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will allow 1 lane closures Monday through Thursdays from 7:00 am until 5:30 pm between Norton Creek and the Gatlinburg Welcome Center beginning Monday, February 24 through Thursday, March 6.

In order to better accommodate the heavier weekend traffic, no lane closures will be allowed over the weekends.

Road Conditions / Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Volunteers Needed For Clingmans Dome Information Center

One of the greatest contributions you can make to the Great Smoky Mountains national park is your time as a park Volunteer, and right the now the National Park Service is actively looking for volunteers to staff the Clingmans Dome Information Center from April 1st through November 30th, 2014.

The volunteers need to work at the Clingmans Dome Visitor Information Center will be asked to work at least one 4 hour shift per week and are needed all days of the week with the most staffing required Friday through Sunday. Shifts are from 9:30 am until 1:30 pm and 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.

Since Volunteers are needed to provide educational, recreational and trip planning information a basic knowledge of the Great Smoky Mountains national park and surrounding area is very helpful even though volunteers are provided orientation and training before their tour of duty.

The Clingmans Dome Information Center first came into being last year by moving the bathrooms into the Clingmans Dome parking area and converting the space into an information center where visitors could ask questions of park staff and volunteers as well as make small purchases of book, maps, tee shirts and other park related items.

If you are interested and could attend the mandatory training that will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building just inside the park on 441 North of Cherokee, North Carolina on Thursday, March 13, 2014, please contact Ranger Florie Takaki Monday through Friday at (828)497-1906 or by email at: Florie_Takaki@nps.gov.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen by Midnight Tonight and Completely by 12 Noon.

The good news is in a nick of time the National Park was funded by both Tennessee and North Carolina for $60,100 a day for 5 days for a total of $300,500. This will keep the park open until Sunday through the first weekend of the fall peak leaf season.

Tennessee's share of the park bill dwarfs the $75,000 North Carolina is spending to open its side of the park. Though more of the GSMNP is in North Carolina, Tennessee has much higher visitation and thus stood losing far more income for its residents that depend on the park visitors and sales tax revenue for the state and nearby counties.

The bad news is it will take time to bring furloughed workers back in and turn on services such as power and water as well as remove barricades tomorrow so the national park is saying much will be open by 8 am and expect full operations back to normal by 12 noon October 16th.

The park will technically be open tonight, but most facilities such as the campgrounds and picnic areas may not be ready until noontime.

Cades Cove Loop Road and Cataloochee Valley are expected to be upon sunrise as well as some of the park roads that are presently closed.

The LeConte Lodge has always been manned, and will be ready for the public tomorrow. Call (865)429-5704 in the morning for openings.

Campers with existing reservations for any days the park is now open will be honored. It is still not clear if new reservations can be made as the reservation system may not be functional.

If the Federal shutdown is not over by Sunday, the park will be officially closed back up just before midnight on Sunday, October 20th. That is unless the states pay more to keep the GSMNP open longer.

Last update 10/15/13 7:47pm


Related Government GSMNP and BRP Closure Articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Will Reopen Tomorrow. - Posted 10-15-13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe - Posted 10-15-13

Government Shutdown Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 14 - Posted 10-14-13

How Government Shutdown is Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-08-13

Update to Government Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-05-13

Shutdown Info Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway - Posted 10-03-13

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-01-13

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe…

Though previously mis-reported by ABC news, it does in fact look possible that the Great Smoky Mountains national park may be opening as soon as tomorrow Wednesday October 16th through this Sunday October 20th thanks to funding by the Stare of Tennessee, Blount and Sevier County and North Carolina.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow

While this is just a Band-Aid effort for the GSMNP and could be a huge boost to those suffering the most in the area, there is still no official plans released if the park reopens, what happens after Sunday.

The timing of the reopening of the GSMNP, if it happens, is especially important considering this will be the first of the 2 best peak weekends to see the colorful fall leaf season in the Smokies, and that we are entering the final days of the active elk rut season.

We are all expecting a huge weekend here in the Smoky Mountains for visitation as the best accommodations in the area have already been sold out for weeks and though most people won't cancel overnight trips to the area, day trippers may put their travels off until next week or later.

To open the park for just those few days would cost $300,500 of which Blunt and Sevier County would be paying 10% each and the state would pay the remaining 80% of its share of the bill which will be split with North Carolina.

Agreements made by the federal government stipulate that when the government shutdown ends, the government would return any funds sent to them by states to open their National Park(s) back to to those states.

Meanwhile in Washington as the debt ceiling deadline looms less than 34 hours away, it is believed by most a deal will be made within the final hours that would stop the government shutdown that has already hurt so many of us and allow the national parks and other government services and facilities to reopen.

Update: Park WILL open - see below!


Related Government GSMNP and BRP Closure Articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen Tomorrow at 12 Noon. - Posted 10-15-13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe - Posted 10-15-13

Government Shutdown Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 14 - Posted 10-14-13

How Government Shutdown is Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-08-13

Update to Government Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-05-13

Shutdown Info Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway - Posted 10-03-13

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-01-13

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Government Shutdown and How the Closure Is Effecting the Great Smoky Mountains Day 14.

If you are coming to see the fall leaf season in the Great Smoky Mountains and expecting a ghost town because national parks in Tennessee and North Carolina remain closed because of the government shutdown, you are in for a surprise.

Fall Color this weekend in the Smoky Mountains


Fall color is just starting to peak higher up in the mountains and the main tourist areas of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville were packed this weekend and are still busier than a normal fall leaf season. Some other areas which are more park dependent such as Townsend Tennessee and Cherokee N Carolina are feeling the brunt of the closures.

Cabin rental companies, hotels and campgrounds outside the park are busier than ever and so are most of the restaurants as the majority of those cancelling their trips where those who were going to camp in the national park which is forbidden during the government closure.

Concessionaires such as the Horseback Riding Stables in the national park have taken a huge hit. Trail guides, stable hands and cashiers in many cases barley make enough to take them paycheck to paycheck which they now have not seen for more than a week. Rumors claimed stables may reopen yesterday, but this is not the case so far.

Also hard hit is the Great Smoky Mountains Association that runs the bookstores/gift shops in the Visitor Centers which are all now closed in the park. They turn all the proceeds they make back into the park. Besides losing sales, they have been the target of costly vandalism.

Other businesses dramatically affected are guide companies that take hikers, tourists and anglers in the park as well photographers and persons performing weddings within the park boundary. Fortunately for many of these companies they can convince so of their clients to takes more expensive further trips away, but not all customers are willing or can handle the additional expense.

One of the well known and established businesses that have really felt the pinch is the Hike Inn which provides accommodations and services for hikers on the Appalachian Trail on the North Carolina Side along with shuttle services to the Slick Rock Wilderness Area, Nantahala National Forest, Cherokee National Forest, the Benton Mackaye Trail and the Bartram trail.

With all the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains national park officially closed, most of the overnight hikers are gone. For hikers looking to remain legal and bypass the park during the closure, the Hike Inn will pick you up at Davenport Gap and take you to where the trail begins again outside the park in Fontana or the other way around.

Another small business that has ground to a halt during the shutdown is Cataloochee Valley Tours run by Esther Blakely whose well trained and seasoned knowledge of the elk reintroduction program in the Great Smoky Mountains national park make her the best possible tour guide in the area.

Since the park is now closed when the majority of the heavy elk rut activity occurs which is also the fall leaf season, none of the elk tours in the park can be conducted. Elk activity outside the GSMNP which does occur, is not dependable enough to conduct tours, so sadly is Cataloochee Valley Tours and its customers must wait this closure out as best they can.

As it stands right now, offers to staff part of the Great Smoky Mountains national park with Blount County public safety employees has been turned down by the park service and the states of Tennessee and North Carolina have not worked out an agreement to fund the park with state monies such as what was done in parks in Colorado and Utah.

During Saturday morning, around 100 people at its peak peacefully demonstrated by the National Park entrance sign near Gatlinburg Tennessee to reopen this national park. During the entire demonstration the park service kept a very low profile with rangers observing the demonstration from a distance in their SUV.

video

Who and what they were trying to convince with this demonstration was still not clear after talking to demonstrators who did not understand the full complexity and legality of a government shutdown, what and how services are decided to be closed and by whom, and what it will take to reopen facilities in the national park.

The demonstration would have been most effective if it was in North Carolina and directed at people who can authorize the spending of state funds with the state of Tennessee to reopen the park.

The park as of this moment still remains closed to all cars, hiking, horseback riding and biking, other than on the 3 open park roads: Newfound Gap Road, The Gatlinburg Bypass and the Spur.

Most parking areas for hiking trails remain blockaded along newfound Gap Road and contrary to what many are claiming, hiking is the park is not allowed. Most scenic pullouts along Newfound Gap Road remain open at this time as well as the Newfound Gap Parking area and the Newfound Gap parking area bathrooms.

As long as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains closed due to the government shutdown, the picnic areas, visitor centers, campground and campsites all remain closed. Other buildings and structure in the park such as bathrooms and historic buildings also remain closed as well.

Right next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Blue Ridge Parkway which is now open for the entire length all the way to Virginia. Blue Ridge Parkways Visitor Centers, Bathrooms and picnic areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway remain closed; however the Pisgah In and Restaurant and the Folk Art Center near Asheville are both upon again to the public.

None of the hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway are blocked off at this timer and many of them such as Graveyard Fields which is in full fall color peak right now, are quite busy.

The good news is that not only are these trials not blocked off, they are not officially listed as closed by the National Park Service is a press release on 10/01 by Chief Ranger Stinnett of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are still lots to see and do in the Smokies even though the park is closed and if you are looking to do something different and be a help to the local economy which is feeling the most from this shutdown, visit Cherokee North Carolina.


Related Government GSMNP and BRP Closure Articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen Tomorrow at 12 Noon. - Posted 10-15-13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe - Posted 10-15-13

Government Shutdown Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 14 - Posted 10-14-13

How Government Shutdown is Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-08-13

Update to Government Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-05-13

Shutdown Info Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway - Posted 10-03-13

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-01-13

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

How is the Government Shutdown Affecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on day 8?

As day 8 unfolds of the government shutdown that closed the Great Smoky Mountains national park, we seem to be stuck in this bad situation with no immediate end in sight.

To make matters worse, if such a thing is possible, almost daily vandalism, petty theft and defiance has become an ongoing issue in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as well as in other national parks, historical sites and monuments around the nation.

Worst hurt here in the Smokies are the 2 great organizations that help support the park through the kindness and good will of donations and purchases made to support the park.

Both the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association have had donation and cash boxes destroyed. The cost to repair or replaces 2 of the boxes damaged will easily exceed $5,000.

Why are these donation boxes so expensive? Sadly people often try to pilfer from these boxes and often when the boxes are emptied, a variety burglary tools are inside.

It takes a lot of sophisticated custom engineering and very solid box building construction to keep the thieves out and yet still let the money come in smoothly.

There also remains some confusion and what has been called by some "mixed signals" as to what is open in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and what is not during this government shutdown.

The only roads open in the Great Smoky Mountains park are the entire length of Newfound Gap Road from Cherokee to Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg Bypass from Newfound Gap Road in Gatlinburg to the Spur.

The only road outside of the Great Smoky Mountain national park that is maintained by the national park service that remains open is the very well traveled Spur section of the Foothills Parkway which connects the city of Gatlinburg with the city of Pigeon Forge Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Road Closures/Conditions

Weather related and seasonal park road closures normally mean that bicycle and pedestrian traffic is allowed. The government shutdown prohibits any use of the parks roads, facilities and trail systems.

The press release Sunday by Chief Ranger Clay Jordan stated:

While most overlooks and pull-offs along the roadway are open to accommodate safe traffic flow over the mountains, facilities and trails remain closed.

He also stated "We ask that the public voluntarily respect the closure of the backcountry for everyone's safety," and "With less staff on duty, we do not have the personnel on hand to sufficiently respond to emergency situations in the backcountry. We understand the desire of visitors to hike during this beautiful time of year and we are hopeful that the park will soon reopen."

There are clear signage and barricades to keep people away from the Chimneys Hiking Trails where reconstruction has stopped as well as the Alum Cave Trailhead. Parking is only allowed in designated pull outs and parking areas so the intent of this extra "enforcement" is quite clear and should be headed. Tickets have been and will continue to be given out for non-compliance of closures.

Remember the Park Rangers you come into contact with are not being paid and most of their acquaintances are furloughed as well. Many working in the park are park families too meaning the loss of 2 or more incomes in the same family.

As much as I understand the heartache of those that work as a career or volunteer in the park, interviewing an employee of one of the stables last Sunday, I now really understand better the extent of the extreme hardships the employees are going through right now. Let's, hope their landlords and finance companies do as well.

Luckily for tourists, there are plenty of stables where you can go horseback riding outside the park and they all are seeing a booming business already and expect it to pick up even more in the next 3 weeks as we hit peak tourism for the Smokies during peak leaf season.

Though the National Park Service attempted to keep all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway open from North Carolina to Virginia, further road damage to a section of roadway is closing the parkway from the from NC191/Brevard Road (about Milepost 393) to Hendersonville Road/25s in South Asheville (Milepost 389) until the Federal Highway Administration can finish repairs hopefully before the end of the month.

Even with this closure on the Blue Ridge Parkway, drivers can still enjoy about a 100 miles of uninterrupted scenic beauty all the way from Gatlinburg Tennessee to this point where you would have to detour to continue on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Best case estimates call for this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be repaired by the end of the week of the 21st. We would all be happier if it was sooner.

As stated before all picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are closed, but you can eat in any of the pull-outs. Cooking, grilling and open flames are forbidden in the Great Smoky Mountains national park other than in designated picnic areas, campsites and campgrounds.

Fall color is more apparent by the day in all of the higher ridge-lines and the past 2 nights have seen temperatures just under 50 degrees in the lower elevations of the park. Add to this the light rainfall we received the night before last and we have the prime making for an extraordinary bright and along lasting peak fall right around the corner.

The next week looks like more of the same, bright sunny days climbing up into the 70s during the day and dropping down to the high 40's.

If you can believe very long range forecasts, it looks as though weather in the Smokies will be nice for the month with maybe 4 days where there is a possibility of rain.

There is even a chance of a light dusting of snow on the peaks early the week of the 20th which would make for a stunning fall photograph.


Related Government GSMNP and BRP Closure Articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen Tomorrow at 12 Noon. - Posted 10-15-13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe - Posted 10-15-13

Government Shutdown Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 14 - Posted 10-14-13

How Government Shutdown is Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-08-13

Update to Government Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-05-13

Shutdown Info Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway - Posted 10-03-13

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-01-13

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