According to geologists, over 2 million years ago a tremendous upheaval of
the earth's surface formed the Great Smokies. Warmth, abundant moisture and
the diversity of environments brought about by the altitude and dissection
of the mountains also contributed to the variety of plant and animal life.
Today, the mountains have over 4,000 species of plant life, 65 mammals, 200
birds, 70 fish, and 80 reptiles and amphibians. Because of the climatic
change accompanying the gain in altitude, a one-day hike could take you
through oak and pine forest (common in northern Georgia), hickory and maple
trees (common in Virginia), northern hardwood (found in Massachusetts ) and
spruce and fir forest (common in Canada).
The first known inhabitants of the Smokies were the Cherokee Indians.
Surprisingly, their lives were similar to, and in some ways more
sophisticated than, the white man who would eventually force them from the
land. The Cherokees were farmers and hunters. Most could read and write the
Cherokee language. Instead of teepees, they lived in cabins made of mud and
logs. Unfortunately, the white man wanted the land and, although treaties
were made, the white man broke them more often than not. The 1830 Removal
Act forced about 13,000 Cherokees to march to Oklahoma. Later, one quarter
of them returned and rejoined those who had stayed. Today, the eastern band
of the Cherokees have a reservation on the Park¹s North Carolina side.
Shortly after the turn of the century, logging began. By 1934, almost 65% of
the forest was logged. Railroads sprang up to carry the lumber out of the
area, and about 1200 farms in the Park helped to feed the loggers.
the National Parks in America were originally part of government-owned
lands; however, the Smokies were owned by private individuals and companies.
In 1926, Congress authorized North Carolina and Tennessee to begin
allocating funds for the purchase of the land. In 1934, with the help of
individuals such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the state bought the land and
gave it to the Federal Government. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
dedicated the Park on September 2, 1940.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the North Carolina/
Tennessee border for about 70 miles, covering 521,000 acres. There are more
than 300 streams flowing over 700 miles. More than 50 types of mammals live
in the park, including the popular black bear. The logging in the early part
of the century forced them to relocate to the more forested areas of the
park, where they are now studied and protected.
For current park events and
information call 865-436-1200.