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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Continuing Update to the Government Closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Day 5 of the government forced closure of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is starting out as an amazing day and the beginnings of fall color starting to show at 3,500 feet and up.

As you can see by by the picture below taken late in the afternoon yesterday that within 2 weeks we will be at full peak fall color here in both the Great Smoky Mountains national park and along all 469 miles you can drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway as well.

fall color in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Unfortunately the nation's most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) is still closed due to the government shutdown mandated by Washington DC to the dismay of tourists and locals alike as we are are in peak season for visitors to the Smokies.

While the park is locked down as mandated by law, some parts of the GSMNP are open, based upon what your interpretation of what open is.

Right now the only roads open to vehicles and normal use within national park boundaries are Newfound Gap Road US441 for its entire length from Gatlinburg Tennessee to Cherokee North Carolina and the Gatlinburg Bypass which starts at the 2 mile area of the Sugarlands from Newfound Gap Road to the Spur connecting Gatlinburg with Pigeon Forge.

Presently all overlooks are open on both park roads and the Newfound Gap Parking area is now open again. The Newfound Gap Parking area bathrooms are now open and are the parks only operating bathrooms.

All cones and blockades have been removed from all quiet walkway trail heads as well as all hiking trail trail heads other than the Chimneys hiking trail and the Alum Cave Trailhead which are obviously off limits.

All other park roads remain gated and locked, some with signs showing that anything past this point is obviously closed to all access.

Government Closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Presently all facilities beyond these points such as picnic areas, visitor centers, campgrounds which are all empty, historic buildings, office buildings and hiking trails are closed by law to all use.

The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)has also closed all of its facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor centers and concessionaires, but has left all 469 miles of roadway open to use.

Combine these 469 miles of the BRP with the 30 miles of driving along Newfound Gap Road US441, and anyone look to see fall color with long sweeping vistas or up close will not be disappointed from now until the end of peak leaf season in about 3 weeks.

Not everyone is standing back and letting the government shutdown and national parks closures potentially devastate the local economy.

Just under 30% of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is in Blount County Tennessee included our beloved Cades Cove.

Sequestration has already closed the campgrounds and facilities in Look Rock and Abrams Creek in Blount County, and now the government shutdown closed the Foothills Parkway West in Blount County.

The mayor of Blount Country Ed Mitchell wishes to have some Great Smoky Mountains national park roads patrolled by the Blount County Sheriff's Office during the government shutdown.

Presently agreements between the GSMNP and local agencies have granted them jurisdiction for Law Enforcement and first response within park borders when needed.

According to mayor Mitchell in a public statement, he contacted the department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell whose agency oversees the National Park Service, to see if he could help reopen parts of the park and Foothills Parkway West.

Mayor Ed Mitchell proposes this by either paying NPS furloughed park personnel from Blount County Funds or to let the county provide both law enforcement and emergency services instead of the national park service so that some parts of the park can reopen.

Business owner Bruce O'Connell who has the concession contract of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 35 years which was ordered to close as specified by the government shutdown, defied the government closure and attempted to stay open and serve food.

The Pisgah Inn defiance to stay open has been noticed by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis who sent a letter directly to Bruce O'Connell advising him that he is in violation of his contract and ordering him to shut down.

According to Blue Ridge Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett people cannot "utilize a business that, according to the federal government, is closed" and that park service managers in Washington directed him to block access to the Pisgah Inn.

Park rangers had in fact blocked access to this business which employees 100 people and turned people away from the government mandated closed federally owned building.

Currently it does not look as if Washington will be lifting the government closures in the next few days, but as some consolation to the 800,000 furloughed federal employees, they will probably be reimbursed for lost pay once the government reopens because of a house bill passed today which is White House backed and the Senate is expected to OK.


Related Government Closure in GSMNP Articles:

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

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Latest Government Shutdown Closure Information Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway

As we just pasted midday on day 3 of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closure created by the government shutdown, we can report some minor, very minor, improvements to the situation.

Newfound Gap Road US441 remains open all the way from Gatlinburg Tennessee to Cherokee North Carolina with the Newfound Gap Parking area now barricaded and closed to all access.

Parking areas by trail heads for hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park such Alum Cave Trail, Husky Gap Trail, Deep Creek Trail, Thomas Divide Trail, Kephart Prong Trail, Kanati Fort Trail and Newton Bald Trail are all coned off and closed. The same for any parking area near a quiet walkway.

The good news is that all major overlooks such as the Oconaluftee Overlook, Carlos Campbell Overlook, and the Swinging Bridges remain open to pullover and enjoy the view.

You cannot park there and walk into the woods or on a trail as the park is closed to all use other than driving and parking in designated spots on Newfound Gap Road.

All visitor centers in the park are closed and will remains so. The same for picnic areas, bathrooms all other roads inside the park other than the Gatlinburg Bypass connecting Newfound Gap Road with the Spur.

The Spur which goes between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is the only park controlled road outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which remains open. Both East and West Foothills Parkways are closed

The Smoky Mountains campgrounds as well as the primate campsite have all been closed. Some still have a few remaining stragglers which have until 6 pm tonight to leave. The Le Conte Lodge has also been closed and hikers are already making their way down the trails to their cars to leave the park.

All horse stables in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are closed and workers other than those taking care of the horses have been sent home until the government closure ends.

Bordering the Great Smoky Mountains national park in Oconaluftee by the Cherokee park entrance is the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway which is also affected by the Government shutdown.

Originally the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway stretching to Virginia were going to close for the government shutdown except for a small section allowing access to the Mount Mitchell State park.

Now the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway is staying open except for the visitor centers, concessionaires, hiking trails and comfort stations which are now closed.

Though only a small part of what the national park system has to offer in both of these units, the fact that Newfound Gap Road and its overlooks and the Blue Ridge Parkway and its overlooks are still open is a huge help to visitors which come to see the scenic fall color and the local economies that depend upon them.

As a matter of fact some trees such as oaks and maples are already changing at about 5,000 and above and can be seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway today far better than any spots on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The government shutdown has not closed the Cherohala Skyway that winds through the Cherokee National Forest. Hiking is also allowed in the area and the Cherohala Visitor Center is to remain open.

It also nice to know that although most of the US Forest Service's facilities will be closed during the government shutdown, most paved roads through Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest will remain open.

Lastly most of the repaving and construction on Newfound Gap Road has just finished for now so travel will be a little easier than the extended wait times we have all experienced at the single lane closure points.


Related Government Closure in GSMNP Articles:

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

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It's happened. The Government shutdown has closed the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to all public use today other than traveling along Newfound Gap Road/US441 from Cherokee North Carolina to Gatlinburg Tennessee.

All other the other Great Smoky Mountains National Parks roads are closed and so are all of the hiking trails, picnic areas, visitor centers, bathrooms, horse stables, streams, scenic overlooks, parking areas, historic buildings, campgrounds and backcountry primitive campsites.

All ongoing scientific studies, park interpretive programs, special events such as weddings, parks as classrooms education programs, have also all been cancelled. Trail rehabilitation and park maintenance has all been stopped and even the park web cam feeds is shut off.

Foothills Parkway East which is outside the park and connects I-40 and 32 in Cosby and the Foothills Parkway West are also both closed.

While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all other National Parks, National Monuments, National Seashores, National Historic sites and National Museums have all closed in the past due to Government Shutdowns, the timing of this closure is especially bad.

If the closure extends by more than a few weeks, it would be disastrous to the local economy which depends on the fall leaf season for a huge percentage of their revenue. Add in government workers being furloughed or not paid and you will see that everyone is feeling the pain.

So far the government shut down in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has cause 279 park employees, 60 concessions employees and 45 Great Smoky Mountains Association employees to be indefinitely put on furlough without pay. This does not count wedding photographers, fishing and private tour guides who pay for permits to work in the park.

Tourists coming into the Great Smoky Mountains to see the best of the Smokies fall leaf season book months in advance. Backcountry and front country campers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have to do the same and sadly can not stay here regardless of reservations.

The elk rut is also in full swing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which attracts thousands of photographers and nature lovers to Cataloochee and Balsam Mountain which are closed.

During October, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park normally sees at least 35,000 visitors on average each day and nationwide the National Park System hosts more than 715,000 visitors a day.

Campers in the national park campgrounds, LeConte Lodge as well as campers in the backcountry campsites have been asked to leave by 6pm Thursday. Some campgrounds are already empty and locked.

There appears to be campgrounds outside the park right now that have extra space, but in the next few weeks, many who thought they could camp here in the Smokies may be out of luck.

National park rangers and other park personnel were clearing out picnic areas, horse stables, locking bathrooms and putting up facility closed signs throughout the park. A very sad day indeed.

Non essential personnel whose numbers have been greatly reduced due to the Sequestration are now being furloughed without pay and they are not alone as about 800,000 federal employees throughout the country lost their income overnight as well.

The more than 3,000 volunteers who work within the park have been asked not to report to duty for as long as the closure takes place.

Law Enforcement Park Rangers will continue to work through the closure although it is not clear if and when they will be paid. I cannot stress enough that there will be no tolerance to those breaking the law such as trespassing on federal land when it is closed to all public use.

We will be providing updates to this story when they become available.

Last Updated 10/01/13 4:55 pm EST


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

Monday, August 05, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Public Meeting on Road Construction Projects

It's not your imagination. For years the Great Smoky Mountains national park roadways have been in a constant state of much needed repair, increasing the comfort and improving the safety of everyone using these roads and parking areas stretching from the complete overhaul of the Cades Cove Loop Road and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, to the to the major rebuilding of Newfound Gap Road after this year's devastating landslide.

What you may not realize it the added bonus of the reduced costs to repair park and visitor vehicles that traverse these roads now that they are in far better condition as well as the reduced environmental impact of these improved parking areas and roadways. There is also a significant economic benefit to the area between the contractors and their employees.

The stimulus help pay for many of the larger projects including the incomplete section of the Foothill Parkway between Wears Valley and Walland which is still ongoing and closed to all vehicles, bikers and hikers, the Sinks Parking Area and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Further work such as drainage system improvements, roadway resurfacing, stone-wall masonry rehabilitation, and slope stabilization is still being done and in the planning stages for Newfound Gap Road US441 and the Gatlinburg Bypass.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are inviting the public today and tomorrow to meetings n order to give an update on current construction and future planed work on these key roadways.

The first meeting will take place today Monday, August 5 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room, about 2 miles from the Gatlinburg, Tennessee park entrance.

The second meeting takes place tomorrow Tuesday, August 6 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at the Oconaluftee Administrative Building which was the old visitor center near the Cherokee, North Carolina entrance.

Public questions and input is very helpful as demonstrated by how smoothly the Cades Cove Loop Road repaving job was accomplished with the least impact possible to park visitors and local business that depend on them.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Road Conditions

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park needs more volunteers at Clingmans Dome Information Center

If you would like to help park visitors at the Clingmans Dome Information Center which at 6,300 feet and is often in or above the clouds, here is your chance as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in need of about a dozen volunteers to help out.

The volunteers will be needed from May through November 30th to help provide park information to visitors and assist in trip planning including giving directions in the Clingmans Dome Information Center which also has a bookstore area managed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA).

The Volunteers needed would be working alongside GSMA employees and will need to be able to work at least one 4 hour shift per week, 11 am to 3 pm. Park Volunteers are most needed for shifts from Friday through Sunday, but help is needed during Monday - Thursday as well.

The information center is relatively new opening in 2010. The building itself was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and before it was turned into the Clingmans Dome Information Center and bookstore, it was a comfort station.

Water quality issues required that the national park switch to vault toilets so that rather than the waste be treated high atop the mountain, it could be pumped out and treated elsewhere where there would be less environmental impact.

While the vault toilets where installed in the parking, the original bathrooms were completely overhauled and turned into the useful building that you see now in its place.

"In the past, visitors to this popular destination did not have a chance to obtain information on their high elevation visit or have questions answered," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Now with the help of volunteers staffing the center, visitors can inquire and learn about the spruce fir ecosystem and the impacts of invasive insects, such as the balsam woolly adelgid, and air quality."

While Clingmans Dome does not see the amount of visitation that the Sugarlands Visitor Center or Oconaluftee does, it is vitally important to park visitors and through hikers along the Appalachian Trail.

Training for Volunteers will be held from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm on Friday, May 17th. To sign up for training or for more information, contact Florie Takaki Monday - Fridays at (828)497-1906 or by email her at Florie_Takaki@nps.gov.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Where and When to see Synchronous Fireflies in the Smokies in 2013

Why do more than a thousand people a night walk around in the dark without lights in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every June? For a very good reason...to see the worlds famous Smokies Synchronous Fireflies.

To see such a miracle of nature is simply amazing with the blinking of tens of thousands of lightning bugs that start randomly, then start flashing all at once or in patterns together, and then as fast is it starts, blackness envelops the area and the sounds of the night forest seems to skip a beat, and then, it all starts again.

The flashing of the fireflies which are actually beetles, vary in color, seasonal timing, duration and pattern from species to species, but the main purpose for all of them to flash or glow is to attract a mate.

The majority of the display that we see from the Synchronous Firefly Photinus carolinus which can be found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other wooded areas and fields close by is the males answer to the female's initial signal of light, which draws him ever closer to her.

While finding the place where the Synchronous Fireflies will flash is not that hard if you can go back to the same spot over and over again from May until July, it's highly impractical.

Virtually every spot the biologists have looked for the Synchronous Firefly in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they have found them, as long as the biologist timing was right.

Timing is everything when it comes to the fireflies as you only have about a 2 week window when they flash their best, before which they are underground and after which they have mated, laid their eggs and have died.

What you have to do to find the is Synchronous Lightning Bugs is understand when they are going to emerge from the soil as fully grown adults ready to mate. In lower elevations of the National Park at the 2,000 foot mark such as in Elkmont where some of the best firefly displays can be seen, that can be as early as the Early May to Mid June.

On average, low elevation peak synchronous firefly activity is the first into the second week of June; however, in 2012 it was the last week of May due to unseasonably warm weather. This year's seasonal emergence of plants and insects was about 3 weeks later than last year so we are right on target with the parks estimation at his point.

One of the best ways to see the fireflies is to take the shuttle buses running from June 6th through June 13th that takes you from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area to the Little River Hiking Trail parking area in Elkmont.

Sadly, far more people want to go see the fireflies in the Smokies than the national park can accommodate, so for years the first come first served system of the firefly shuttle buses have been scrapped for a reservation system that leaves just as many people missing out on the show, but not waiting in long lines for no reason. Advance parking passes to buy tickets sold out in hours with the remaining half going to sell out fast on the day before each departure.

Another choice area for see in the Synchronous Lightning Bugs is the Great Smoky Mountains National park is in Tremont for the 3rd and last week in May as the elevation is about 800 or so feet less than in Elkmont and they do emerge and mature sooner. This road also sees very little traffic so the lights won't disturb the fireflies as much.

If you feel like walking, another great spot to the see the fireflies is to hike into Cades Cove which is allowed even as the road is closed to motor vehicle traffic. Here in Cades Cove, which is at an elevation between Tremont and Elkmont, choice areas are Hyatt Lane, by the Abrams Falls Trailhead or by Sparks Lane.

Not planning or arriving to the Smokies until the 2nd weekend in June or later and still want to see the synchronized fireflies in the GSMNP? Higher up is when you need to go. Try the Newfound Gap Parking Area, around Clingmans Dome, along the Foothills Parkway East or Foothills Parkway West.

Related Smokies Fireflies News Stories

Synchronized Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is Newfound Gap Road Between Cherokee and Gatlinburg Open Again?

As anyone working in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Cherokee or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park what question they are asked most often since the huge landslide in January of this year right by mile marker 22 and they will tell you is will be a pleasure to say yes, Newfound Gap Road is open all the way from the Sugarlands all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Great Smoky Mountings National Park Is Looking For Volunteers in North Carolina

If you love the Great Smoky Mountains national park, you can give back to the park by becoming a volunteer which is a very rewarding experience.

Presently the GSMNP is looking for volunteers to rove in and around the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, the Oconaluftee River Trail and along a part of Newfound Gap Road/US441 from now until Nov 9th, 2013.

Volunteers should have knowledge about the park and will be providing information to park visitors such as approaching and disturbing wildlife, littering, historical information and places to go in the park. When necessary, a volunteer will need to assist park rangers with traffic management.

Volunteers will also need to provide visitors with information on viewing elk and other wildlife safely, about the elk reintroduction program in the GSMNP and the elk's role in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

To participate or for more information, contact the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828)497-1904. Volunteers will be required to take an orientation and training session on Friday, April 26 from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm at Oconaluftee.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Major Road Closes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Due to a Washout

As the Great Smoky Mountains national park is still dealing with the huge landslide which has shut off the main road connecting Tennessee with North Carolina, US441 Newfound Gap Road, another major road running through the park was discovered to have washout damage from Little River running alongside it.

Little River Road past Metcalf bottoms just east of the Sinks had lost part of its shoulder and cracks have developed in the area prompting park officials to close Little River Road (State Road 73) between Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye.

Because of weight restrictions on the Metcalf Bottom Bridge, large RV's are unable to cross and thus to exit or enter the park through Wears Gap Road and would have to turn back.

Crews from Great Smoky Mountains national park are right now are on Little River Road and as of yet there are no estimates as to when it will reopen.

Current estimates have Newfound Gap Road reopening in May.

Update 03/26/13 9:50am
Cleanup and temporary repairs are complete. Road may be able to reopen shortly.

Update 03/26/13 10:35am
Road will reopen as soon as snowplows are finished.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Road Information

Friday, January 18, 2013

Virtually Every Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Closed

First it was flooding that closed many key roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, now a winter storm dumped enough snow to create another headache, virtually every road is closed due to snow and ice including the Foothills Parkway West and East and the Gatlinburg Bypass connecting the Sugarlands to the Spur.

Crews are working on plowing and sanding roads right now. They will also be cleaning up any of the additional trees, branches and roads that may have fallen into the roadways. When the melting starts, even more debris could fall into the roadway making driving treacherous.

With so much water, there have been landslides, one of which washed out a 200 foot section of roadway, and rock slides and trees that may still be in danger of falling so when the park access opens up, use extreme caution when hiking as some of these dangers may not be immediately apparent.

Links: Great Smoky Mountain national park road conditions

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Weather Conditions and a Serious Accident Closes Some Major Great Smoky Mountains National Park Roads.

The Great Smoky Mountains national park is under a flood warning until 7 am tomorrow morning and it is the high waters associated with past days rain that closed Forge Creek Road and Sparks Lane in Cades Cove first along with the upper portion of Tremont Road.

Now a serious accident has caused rangers to closed Newfound Gap Road US441 for as of yet an undetermined time.

Additional Great Smoky Mountains national park road closures now include all of Cades Cove Loop, Road, Old State Road 284 between Big Creek and Cataloochee, and the Cataloochee entrance road.

Links: GSMNP Roads  Smoky Mountains Weather