|About the Site|
|Great Smoky Mountain National Park (7)|
There are many trails in the park. Much of the trail system is the product of work by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, as is the case in other national parks.
The famous and popular Appalachian Trail runs through the hear of the park. This trail, which runs from the Canadian border to Georgia, is about 2000 miles in length total with approximately 70 miles leading through the park. It reaches its highest point along the crest of the Smokies, as shown below.
The Laurel Falls Trail is a self guiding nature trail.
The Sugarland Nature Trail is located near the Sugarland Visitor Center and provides an easy walk through the forest of oak, hickory, and pine.
There are about 1500 species of flowering plants in the park. The display of flowers is spectacular in the spring, especially during the peak around the end of April.
In addition to deeply forested areas there are also heavy undergrowth.
These white flowers frame a tyical view of the the ridges of the Smoky Mountains.
There are aproximately 50 species of animals and 200 species of birds which make their home in the park. At one time a number of large mammals wandered the area, although they have long since disappeared from the park area, including the bison (not seen since the 1700's), elk (none since the 1840's), and the eastern mountain lion (gone since 1900). The white-tailed deer (seen below) is one of the few large mammals which still lives in the park, and the largest population of these animals can be found in Cades Cove, where they like the fields of hay. This is where the fellow below was spotted and where herds of deer can be found. When the park was originally established these animals were fairly rare, but their numbers have increased considerably because of the conservation efforts.
The most popular animal for visitors to see is undoubtedly the black bear--Ursus Americanus--the only type of bear found in this park. Great Smoky is bear country; there are about 400-600 bears in the park. Their is one bear every 1 or 2 square miles, the highest density of these animals in North America. A bear along the road in Cades Cove or elsehwere in the park often causes "bear jams" as tourists stop their cars on the spot in the middle of the road to get out and gawk or take pictures. The bear has black fur with a brown muzzles.
These animals can be fairly large, weighing up to 350 pounds, although the average female may be 120-130 pounds and males from 200-240 pounts. The largest bear ever recorded was about 510 pounds. The bears feed on a number of foods, including wild cherries, berries, ants, beetles, yelow jackets, and small mammals. Before the destruction of the chestnut trees, chestnusts were among their favorite foods. In the fall, the animals may gain 3-5 pounds a day as the prepare for their winter nap which usually lasts from around November through March. The nap is not actually hibernation; rather, the bear's metabolism slows by half, they don't eat or drink, and their bodily wastes are processed internally.
Bears can often be seen in clearings, such as those in Cades Cove, or along some of the paved roads within the park. They are extremely curious, especially when it comes to finding food. However, with their formidable teeth and claws, they are capable of serious violence and should not be approached. However, most injuries to people have occurred when they are trying to pet or feed the bears, neither a wise course of action.
Actually, the bears which can be seen along roadways represent only about 5% of the bear population. The great majority of the black bears stay deep in the forest where it is a great deal more difficult to spot them. There the bears feed on acorns and other food. A black bear can barely be glimpsed in the photo below as it moves through the forest, demonstrating how easily these animals blend in with the background in their preferred habitat. The black bear can climb trees as easily as a squirrel and spend a great deal of time in trees, even denning up in the winter.
The black bear was hunted by the Cherokees for its fat, hide, bone, and meal, and of course was also hunted by the white man, as we know from the Ballad of Davy Crockett. However, protection afforded by the national park status has resulted in a great comeback for the animals.
Information about Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been drawn from personal experience, maps, interpretive material, brochures, and other data available in the park itself, and a number of other sources, including:
- At Home in the Smokies. (1984). Washington, DC: National Park Service.
- Cambell, Carolos C. (1960). Birth of a National Park in the Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press.
- Cantu, Rita. (1996). Great Smoky Mountains: The Story Behind the Scenery. Las Vegas, NV: KC Publications.
- Duhl, David., & Netherton, John. (1988). A Guide to Photography and the Smoky Mountains. Nashville, TN: Cumberland Valley Press.
- Hart, Val. (1959). Great Smoky Mountains. In America's Wonderlands: The National Parks. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 422-432.
- Houk, Rose. (1993). Great Smoky Mountain National Park: A Natural History Guide. New York: Houghton-Mifflin.
- Our National Parks: America's Spectaclular Wilderness Heritage. (1989). Pleasantville, NJ: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 149-153.
- Renniche, Jeff. (1991). The Smoky Mountain Black Bear: Spirit of the Hills. Gatlinberg, TN: Great Smoky Mountain Natural History Association.
- Shields, Randolph A. (1977). The Cades Cove Story. Gatlinberg, TN: Great Smoky Mountain Natural History Association.
- Thybony, Scott. (1994). Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. In Our Inviting Eastern Parklands. Washigton, DC: National Geographic Society.
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- All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013
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