Friday, August 18, 2017

Smokies Reminds Visitors to Be Prepared for their Solar Eclipse Experience

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are urging visitors to review the Frequently Asked Questions information posted on the park’s 2017 Solar Eclipse website at to assist in planning a safe solar eclipse experience.

Everyone is reminded to use only approved solar eclipse glasses when directly viewing the eclipse. Glasses can only be removed during the brief few seconds when in the area of totality. The duration of totality varies greatly across the park and region. A common cause of eye injury during a total eclipse is immediately following totality when viewers forget to put their glasses back on.

“A large number of people will be making Great Smoky Mountains National Park their destination for eclipse viewing on Monday,” said the park’s Chief Ranger, Steve Kloster. “We want to make sure everyone who comes here is as prepared as possible and understands that we expect traffic to be heavy and many park areas to be crowded. The better prepared our visitors are, the more enjoyable and safe the experience will be for everyone.”

Visitors should bring plenty of food and water and make sure their vehicle has a full tank of gas before entering the park. The high amount of traffic expected will cause difficulties for towing companies to reach vehicles in need. The traffic could also cause temporary road closures throughout the day as the park manages the influx of vehicles entering the park. Anyone planning to travel to or through the park should have an alternate route in mind in case the first path or viewing location is no longer available.

Visitors are asked to remember to respect the park and it’s wildlife by staying at least 50 yards from bears and elk and not feeding any park animals. Trash should be packed out or put in an appropriate trash receptacle to keep our overlooks and viewing areas clean. Backcountry hikers are reminded to follow Leave No Trace principles and to make sure they are prepared for the distance and mountainous terrain of their planned hike.

Visitors should also remember that Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to public access beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 through the evening of Monday, August 21 following the eclipse event. No overnight parking will be allowed at Clingmans Dome Parking Area or pull-offs, parking areas, and trailheads along the road during this time period. The road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The Clingmans Dome Trail will be open to the public, but the tower will be accessible to media only. The event at Clingmans Dome will be livestreamed at


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Friends of the Smokies Announces $2.5 Million Emergency Radio Upgrade in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In celebration of the organization’s 25th anniversary next year, Friends of the Smokies is delighted to announce a milestone capital campaign to fund a critical radio system upgrade in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

The total cost of the radio system upgrade is $2.5 million. “Our target for this campaign is to raise $1.25 million by this time next year, making it our biggest fundraising goal in a decade,” said Jim Hart, president of the nonprofit organization. Federal funding sources and other grants will be used to match donations to Friends of the Smokies dollar for dollar to reach the total cost. “We know our generous supporters will rise to meet this challenge in spectacular fashion, especially when such a significant project is at hand.”

The radio communications system currently used in GSMNP has exceeded its recommended maximum lifespan. Replacement parts are difficult to come by and repairs and maintenance are costly on a tightening federal budget. The proposed project will replace microwave and repeater equipment at nine radio tower sites around the park as well as portable radio units and mobile units in patrol vehicles and fire engines. This will allow park rangers and emergency dispatch to directly communicate with police, fire, and emergency services in jurisdictions outside park boundaries including agencies in North Carolina and Tennessee. The total cost of the upgrade also includes a Computer Aided Dispatch system which allows dispatchers to prioritize and record emergency calls and locate first responders in the field.

Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger in GSMNP said, “The ability to effectively communicate with different agencies in the field can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation where every second counts. A good communications system truly is the backbone of any emergency response and this stateof-the-art upgrade will put the Smokies on par with any unit in the National Park Service.”

In addition to improving emergency response for law enforcement, search and rescue, and wildland fire, this upgrade will provide operable and dependable equipment for day-to-day operations across more than 522,000 acres of the national park. Where before, facility maintenance might share the same channel with an active search and rescue operation, the upgraded communication system will provide dedicated emergency frequencies.

“A new radio system is absolutely vital for responding to emergencies quickly and effectively, preserving the cultural and natural resources of this park, and protecting our visitors and first responders,” GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash added. “We are thankful to the Friends for their willingness to tackle this request head on and still provide funding for other needs across the park.”

“Delivery of a large-scale project like this radio system is the perfect way to celebrate our 25th anniversary next year,” said Brent McDaniel, marketing director at Friends of the Smokies. “Big, important projects like this are nothing new to Friends of the Smokies and we are excited to help protect 11 million visitors and keep our park rangers safe.”

Friends of the Smokies has contributed millions of dollars towards milestone projects including matching $2 million from the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville in 2008 to create the Trails Forever endowment. Now grown to more the $5 million, this endowment funds a full-time trail crew that focuses on rehabilitation of the park’s most heavily used trails, including Chimney Tops, Alum Cave, and Rainbow Falls. Recurring support from Friends of the Smokies to GSMNP for programs like environmental education, historic preservation, and wildlife management exceeds $1 million annually.

To make a matching gift to support this critical radio system upgrade, please visit or call 800-845-5665.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Prepares for Total Solar Eclipse

Blue Ridge Parkway staff and volunteers are actively preparing for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. That day, from approximately 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., the eclipse will cross much of the southern section of Parkway on its journey across the United States. Weather permitting, visitors to this section of Parkway, from Milepost 417 – 469, will have the opportunity to experience 100% totality in approximately 17 overlooks. Additional overlooks in this section, and extending north of this area, will experience varying partial totality.

In anticipation of an unprecedented volume of visitors on the day of the eclipse, Parkway managers are asking anyone interested in experiencing the eclipse on the Parkway to plan ahead and follow these guidelines:

•Expect heavy traffic. Have plenty of patience and make sure you have full tank of gas. Rangers may implement short term closures if parking becomes full or roads become congested.

•Plan several options for viewing locations and get there early. If parking is full at your first choice location, move to another.

•Be prepared. In addition to special viewing glasses, visitors should bring food, plenty of water, a first-aid kit, flashlight, and provisions for changing weather.

•Pack it in, pack it out. To help protect park resources, visitors should pack out any trash generated during their time on the Parkway.

Additional information about what to expect and how to prepare is available on the Parkway’s website. On the day of the eclipse, the Parkway will use its Twitter channel for any updates or announcements.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of 21 National Park Service sites in the path of the eclipse. National parks offer a memorable setting for watching the eclipse; and during the eclipse, park rangers and volunteers will be on site at selected overlooks throughout the day reminding visitors about the many other ways to experience the Parkway’s natural and cultural resources throughout the year.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Shenandoah National Park To Host Night Sky Festival and Solar Eclipse Viewing

Shenandoah National Park will celebrate the importance of dark skies and the beautiful night skies that Shenandoah protects with the second-annual Night Sky Festival from Friday, August 18 to Monday, August 21. Join Park Rangers, special speakers, and local volunteer astronomers during four exciting days of talks, walks, audio-visual presentations, and sky viewing throughout the Park. The event will culminate with a viewing of the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. Shenandoah and other national parks provide excellent opportunities to experience starry night skies and natural darkness. Join us to learn the basics of astronomy, discover the importance of protecting dark night skies, enjoy some close up views of stars and planets, and learn about eclipses.

On August 21, 2017, the final day of the festival, the 2017 Solar Eclipse will cross the continental United States. While Shenandoah National Park will only experience 80-85% coverage of the sun at approximately 2:40 p.m., and will not experience a total eclipse, it is still a great place to learn about and experience an eclipse. Join Rangers throughout the weekend and on the day of the eclipse to learn why a solar eclipse happens, what to expect, and how to view it safely.

Activities will take place in a variety of locations throughout the Park. For a complete list of the weekend’s events, see the Night Sky Festival schedule. All programs are free. There is a $25-per-vehicle entrance fee to the Park which is good for seven days.

Participants are encouraged to dress for cool mountain nights during evening activities and bring blankets, chairs, and flashlights for stargazing. Night sky viewing may be canceled depending on cloud cover or inclement weather.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shenandoah National Park Announces Temporary Trail Closure during Helicopter Operations

Shenandoah National Park managers will temporarily close the area surrounding Corbin Cabin (see closure map, red rectangle) to all hiking and backcountry use during helicopter operations associated with the restoration of the historic cabin. Since the cabin is located in a remote area, a helicopter will be used to remove construction materials related to the project.

The temporary closure will be in effect from 6:00 a.m. August 8 through 6:00 p.m. August 11. The closure area is located southeast of Skyline Drive (mileposts 37 and 38) in the vicinity of the upper Nicholson Hollow/ Corbin Cabin Cutoff Trail. Trails closed include all of the Corbin Cabin Cutoff Trail and the Nicholson Hollow Trail from the intersection of the Indian Run Trail eastward to 1/4 mile east of the Corbin Cabin. There will be no closures on Skyline Drive or the Appalachian Trail.

As soon as the project is completed, the temporary closure will be lifted.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hit-and-Run Suspect Seriously Injures Girl along Little River Road

The National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) is investigating a hit and run accident that occurred at approximately 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 29 along Little River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A motorcyclist fled the scene after striking and seriously injuring a 13-year old, female pedestrian at a pulloff between the Townsend Wye and the Sinks.

The motorcyclist was traveling west along Little River Road at a high rate of speed when he lost control of his motorcycle and struck a 13-year old girl who was standing near a parked vehicle at the pulloff. He abandoned his wrecked motorcycle and fled the scene. The injured girl was flown by Lifestar to UT Medical Center.

Investigators are looking for information from anyone who may have witnessed the incident or observed the two motorcycles traveling from Gatlinburg, TN towards Townsend, TN on Little River Road between 7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Additionally, any witness to the accident scene who took photographs or video of the scene is requested to contact the investigators through the tip line.

Respondents may contact the investigators through any of the following means:

• CALL the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-009
• TEXT to 202-379-4761
• ONLINE at and click “Submit a Tip”
• MESSAGE on Facebook @InvestigativeServicesNPS or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS


Friday, July 28, 2017

Bear Reports at Table Rock Picnic Area

Pisgah National Forest staff report several recent instances of bear encounters in the Table Rock Picnic Area on the Grandfather Ranger District. Please exercise caution in this area, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear.

You can protect yourself and protect bears by storing trash and food in safe locations during your visit. This can be done by keeping items in bear-proof canisters, inside trailers, and in the trunk of a vehicle. Food and trash left in passenger areas of vehicles can still attract bears and potentially lead to property damage. Do not leave food or coolers unattended. Never store scented items in your tent, including toothpaste, deodorant, beverages, or snacks. Pick up all garbage around your site, including inside fire rings, grills, and tables and properly store with your food or dispose in a bear-proof trash receptacle.

If a bear is observed nearby, pack up food and trash immediately and vacate the area. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts or making noise. If a bear approaches, do not run, but move away slowly and get into a vehicle or building. In the event of a bear attack, do not play dead. Try to fight back and act aggressively. Carrying EPA registered bear spray is another way to combat bear attacks.

If you encounter a bear while on the forest, please inform the district office. You can find more information by visiting