GSMA Member Hike into Hazel Creek and Bone Valley

Sunday, November 30, 2014

You may have heard of these remote areas, but have you ever actually seen them? Here's a peek at the Bone Valley and Hazel Creek areas of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Earlier this year 17 members and 3 employees of the Great Smoky Mountains Association went on a hike to Bone Valley along the Hazel Creek Trail. This 16-mile adventure was one of the exclusive member activities the GSMA conducts every month. If you're interested in going on a future hike with the organization, please visit for more information:

If you do plan on joining the GSMA on a future hike, please be sure to visit our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

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NC National Forests: Know Before You Go

Friday, November 28, 2014

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With winter fast approaching, the U.S. Forest Service is urging outdoor enthusiasts to "Know Before You Go" and follow simple tips to stay safe when visiting the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan national forests during the colder months.

“The forests can provide stunning scenery and recreational opportunities during the winter, but it is important to be aware of the dangers and risks associated with winter weather,” said Rick Gamber, safety officer with the Forest Service’s National Forests in North Carolina. “Snow storms, freezing temperatures and long exposure to cold winds are all concerns when recreating in the national forests in the winter months.”

Severe injuries and fatalities can occur during the winter due to unsafe road conditions after a snow or ice storm. Motorists should be aware of icy conditions on shaded areas of roadways. Drivers should use common sense when traveling on Forest Service roads and obey speed limits. Gamber also encourages motorists to have appropriate tires, to not travel alone and carry emergency kits containing items such as water, pre-packaged snack foods, warm clothing, a blanket and matches.

Gamber says visitors to the national forests should pay attention to their surroundings and to their capabilities in the woods. People who remain outdoors for an extended period of time such as hikers and hunters are susceptible to hypothermia, a condition where the body experiences abnormally low body temperature which can lead to death.

“It’s very important to dress in layers to maintain proper body temperature, and to layer your foot protection also with wool socks being the first layer while hiking in the cold to avoid hypothermia,” said Gamber.

Frostbite is another injury common to those spending significant time outdoors in the winter months. Frostbite is a progressive injury caused by freezing of the skin and tissue, which causes a loss of feeling in the affected areas. It is important to take the correct steps to avoid frostbite. Visitors should stay warm and dry with many layers and do not expose skin such as the tip of your nose, ears and fingers to the cold for extended periods of time.

“If you think you or a companion is experiencing frostbite, seek warm shelter and immerse the affected area in room temperature, not hot, water,” said Gamber. “Do not rub the frostbitten area, as this can cause more damage.”

Before heading out to enjoy your national forests this winter, “know before you go” and contact the local Ranger District office to get the latest information about current road conditions and seasonal closures.

Click here for more information on outdoor safety tips. Keeping these safety tips in mind will help outdoor enthusiasts safely enjoy winter in the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan national forests.

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An Island in the Sky - Fall in the Higher Elevations Sequence

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Below is a clip from the Great Smoky Mountains Association's first film in the Smoky Mountain Explorer Series, An Island in the Sky - Clingmans Dome & the Spruce-fir Forests. This clip showcases fall in the higher elevations of the northern hardwood forests that are found on Clingmans Dome. You can purchase a copy of the film here.

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Seasons of the Smokies - Autumnal Equinox Sequence

Sunday, November 23, 2014

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Below is a clip from the Great Smoky Mountains Association's second film in the Smoky Mountain Explorer Series, Seasons of the Smokies - A Wondrous Diversity of Life. This clip showcases the beginning of the Autumnal equinox and the challenges that wildlife face as they prepare for winters arrival. You can purchase a copy of the film here.

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REI Awards $25,000 Grant to Support Sustainable Environmental Practices Along the Appalachian Trail

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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Earlier this week the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced that it had received a $25,000 grant from REI, a national outdoor gear and apparel retailer committed to connecting people with the outdoors. The grant will support sustainable environmental practices along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), particularly in the southern region, which is the most popular location to begin thru-hiking the 2,180-mile Trail.

Interest in hiking the A.T. is on the rise as a result of projects like “A Walk in the Woods,” the film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s best-selling memoir, scheduled to be released in 2015. It is expected the movie will result in a major increase in the number of A.T. hikers.

The grant from REI will help the ATC as it works to minimize any negative impacts from visitors by addressing litter, waste disposal, trail erosion, campsite use and backcountry facility maintenance and rehabilitation. The ATC will also work to communicate Leave No Trace practices through new channels, including training courses in communities along the Trail, and plans to increase the number of Ridge Runners in an effort to provide additional educational opportunities to hikers.

“A strong relationship between the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and its corporate partners is vital as we work to mitigate the impacts from an increase in the popularity of the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, executive director/CEO of the ATC. “The grant from REI will help us effectively manage any new threats that may emerge, and we are proud to have REI as a partner.”

REI is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. In communities across the country, REI partners with local and national nonprofits to help restore or maintain popular trails, parks and waterways. The company’s recent grant to the ATC builds on a 10-year partnership. During that time, the ATC has continued to further its mission of preservation and management of the A.T. through trail management and support, conservation work, community engagement and educational initiatives.

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Hiking in Grandfather Mountain State Park

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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Sitting at an elevation of 5946 feet, Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is best known for its "Mile High Swinging Bridge" and the Linn Cove Viaduct.

The "Mile High Swinging Bridge", the highest such bridge in America, was built in 1952 by Hugh Morton, who inherited the mountain from his grandfather and developed the tourist attractions. The 228-foot long suspension bridge, sitting one mile above sea level, spans an 80-foot chasm that links two of the mountain's rocky peaks. It’s known as a "swinging" bridge due to its tendency to sway in high winds. Visitors wishing to cross the bridge will have to climb 50 stairs just to reach it.

The park is also famous for being home to the Linn Cove Viaduct. In November of 1982 the final link of the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed along the flanks of Grandfather Mountain. This quarter-mile long bridge, known as the Linn Cove Viaduct, finally completed the 470-mile scenic road that connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The viaduct has won 12 national design awards and is the most popular section of the Parkway.

Grandfather Mountain was officially established as a state park in June of 2009 after the Morton family agreed to sell 2600 acres of the undeveloped portions of the mountain to the state of North Carolina during the prior year. The family continues to operate the nature park as a travel destination, and is administered by a new not-for-profit entity known as the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

Hiking at Grandfather Mountain State Park

Grandfather Mountain has 11 trails that vary in difficulty - from a gentle walk in the woods to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks. The mountains position, unusual height, high pH soil types, density of vegetation, moist cool climate, and other features, combine to produce a mosaic of specialized habitats. In fact, Grandfather Mountain is home to 16 distinct ecosystems, as well as 73 rare or endangered species, including 32 species that are globally at risk.

Many of the trails will take you through forests that are normally found in Canadian climates.

Access to the trails in Grandfather Mountain State Park is included as part of your attraction admission. Guests who purchase a ticket to the attraction may access the state park from the Hiker's parking area below the Swinging Bridge.

For hiking only you may access Grandfather Mountain State Park from off-mountain trailheads. You will, however, be required to register for a free hiking permit at one of the area outlets.

For those with a fear of heights, please note that some trails will require the use of ladders and cables in order to climb sheer cliff faces.

Hiker's Parking Area Trails:

The Black Rock Nature Trail is a self-guided, one-mile nature trail beginning at the Hiker's Parking Area (three curves below the summit). The trail offers wide angle views of the Swinging Bridge, MacRae and Attic Window Peaks, as well as Beacon Heights and Grandmother Mountain to the southwest.

The Bridge Trail, at four-tenths of a mile, moves quickly into a natural area where visitors can walk through red and white rhododendron, galax, red spruce, Fraser fir, and yellow birch. The trail climbs up the mountain and travels under the Swinging Bridge before ending at the Visitor Center. You'll have outstanding views of the massive rock outcroppings on this trail.

East Side Trails:

There are two points for accessing East Side trails. Most hikers use the Boone Fork Parking Area at mile 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The alternative is the Asutsi Trail which begins across from Serenity Farm on US 221, which is also the only winter access when the Parkway is closed.

Daniel Boone Scout Trail climbs roughly 2,000 feet in just over 3 miles. The hike begins at the Tanawha Trail and climbs to the summit of Calloway Peak (5,964'), the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Roughly half way up, at Flat Rock View, hikers reach the Cragway Trail junction. Beyond the junction you’ll have outstanding views of Price Park and the Linn Cove Viaduct. Just before reaching the Calloway Peak summit, you’ll find a series of ladders and cables to help you through the steeper sections.

The Nuwati Trail follows an old logging road for 1.2 miles before reaching Storyteller's Rock where you’ll have a spectacular view of an isolated valley that some geologists think was carved by glaciers. Along the way cross over a couple of streams and pass a solitary stand of Quaking Aspens. Nuwati, meaning "medicine" in the Cherokee language, is an easy but rocky hike.

Cragway Trail is a steep, strenuous hike with excellent views of the Boone Fork Bowl. This trail links the Nuwati and Boone Trails, making for an excellent loop-hike. When returning back to the parking area from the Boone Trail, hikers have the option of following the Cragway Trail to the Nuwati Trail.

Asutsi Trail is a short, easy trail of just 0.4 miles that links Serenity Farm on US 221 and the Tanawha Trail. The trail also provides alternative access to the Nuwati and Boone Trails. Fittingly, Asutsi means "bridge" in the Cherokee language.

West Side Trails:

West Side Trails are accessed from NC 105, roughly 0.7 miles north of the intersection with NC 184.

Profile Trail Although the lower portion of this trail is easy, the upper section of this 3.1 mile trail is strenuous. The trail crosses the Watauga River and travels through rhododendron thickets and under a hardwood canopy for much of its length. After the trail begins to get steeper you’ll reach Profile View, which offers a view of the famous Grandfather Profile at roughly 2 miles from the trailhead. Shanty Spring, at roughly 2.7 miles into your hike, marks the transition of this trail into a strenuous pathway of tumble-down rocks before reaching the Grandfather Trail at 3.1 miles.

Calloway Trail is only 0.3 miles in length, but it’s a strenuous hike. The steep and rocky path calls for some careful footwork. Your reward, however, are the views that open up as you hike along the Grandfather Trail.

Crest Trails:

Crest Trails are accessed from the summit parking lot or the Hiker's Parking Area, as well as from the Profile Trail or Daniel Boone Trail.

Grandfather Trail is a 2.4 mile, very strenuous hike that includes sections where hikers must use cables and ladders. The route follows the crest of Grandfather Mountain from the Hiker's Parking Area to Calloway Peak, and features panoramic views of mountains in every direction.

It was along this trail two centuries ago that noted French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux broke into song thinking he had arrived at the highest point in North America. A century later, famed naturalist John Muir was inspired to describe the sight as "the face of all Heaven come to earth."

An alternative to taking the ladders up MacRae Peak is to opt for the more sheltered Underwood Trail (see below).

Underwood Trail splits-off from the Grandfather Trail near the half mile marker and bypasses the ladder climbs on MacRae Peak before rejoining the Grandfather Trail at MacRae Gap, roughly one mile from the trailhead. The trail makes a steep, rocky loop under the crest line around Raven Rock Cliffs.

Key Links:
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Grandfather Mountain Trail Map (PDF)
Blue Ridge Parkway

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Hiking in Gorges State Park

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Gorges State Park is a 7500-acre state park in Transylvania County, North Carolina. The land along Jocassee Gorges was purchased by the state from the Duke Energy Corporation in 1999. The park lies adjacent to the Nantahala National Forest and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's Toxaway Game Land. It’s now North Carolina's westernmost state park, and one of the newest in the state.

Gorges State Park is characterized by plunging waterfalls, rugged river gorges, sheer rock walls and one of the greatest concentrations of rare and unique species in the eastern United States. With an elevation that rises 2000 feet in only four miles, in conjunction with rainfall in excess of 80 inches per year that creates a temperate rain forest, helps to support the numerous waterfalls the park is famous for.

Several plant species more typical of the tropics thrive where the constant spray from the park's waterfalls and plunging whitewater streams shower the rock walls and talus slopes with mist. Scientists aren’t sure how these plants are able to grow so far from the tropics. One theory is that spores from the tropics blew north and settled in the region. Another explanation is that these species remained in the region from tens of thousands of years ago when a warmer climate existed in North America. Examples of the tropical plants found in the park include Carolina Star Moss, Oconee Bell, Small Whirled Pomona, Fraser’s Loosestrife and Pringle's Aquatic Moss.

Many animals can be found within Gorges, including black bear, wild turkey, fox, coyote, wild boar and deer. North Carolina's largest known population of green salamanders can also be found in Gorges. The secretive salamander hides in the damp, shaded crevices of cliff faces.

The forests of the park provide for abundant habitat for neo-tropical migratory birds as well, including the largest population of Swainson's warbler in the mountains of North Carolina.

Hiking in Gorges State Park

Gorges State Park offers rugged terrain that will challenge any outdoors enthusiast. Hikers who traverse the steep, backwoods trails will be rewarded with views of dazzling waterfalls or perhaps an encounter with one of the numerous rare species of the park.

Trails from the Grassy Ridge parking area:

Bearwallow Falls is a moderate 3.2 mile trail.

Bearwallow Valley Trail is a moderate 2.5 mile trail that takes hikers to one of the highest overlooks in the park. At 3,200 feet above sea level, you’ll enjoy views into South Carolina as well as Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee.

Waterfall Overlook Trail leads to a small observation platform overlooking a long cascade on Bearwallow Creek.

The Rainbow Falls Trail really has two "trailheads", but it officially starts in Gorges State Park before entering into Nantahala National Forest. Running for three miles, the trail descends to the Horsepasture River above Stairway Falls, and then proceeds to Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls, before ending at the National Forest boundary just below Drift Falls. After meeting with the river, the trail narrows and becomes much steeper and rougher up to the falls. Please note that the steep, rocky, eroded side trail up to NC 281 is no longer part of the official trail.

Trails from the Frozen Creek parking area:

Auger Hole Trail is a strenuous 12-mile roundtrip multipurpose trail that bisects the heart of the park and ends at the Foothills Trail. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders are allowed on this trail. There are two river fords where hikers are likely to get their feet wet.

Buckberry Ridge Nature Trail is an easy, 0.75 mile walk.

Canebreak Trail is a moderately strenuous 10-mile roundtrip trail that ends at Lake Jocassee and the Foothills Trail. The trail follows an old forestry road along the entire route. The lake can be seen from the suspension bridge on the Foothills Trail. Camping is permitted at the Cane Brake campsites on Lake Jocassee.

The Foothills Trail runs 6.7 miles through Gorges State Park, and is one of the park's most popular pathways. The trail winds along the southern portion of the state park and wraps around Lake Jocassee where primitive campsites are available. This section of trail is actually one of the more popular segments of the larger 77-mile path that runs through Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina.

Ray Fisher Place is a 5.4 mile moderately difficult hike to a primitive campsite with six sites.

In addition to hiking, visitors have opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, boating and fishing in the park. Mountain biking and horseback riding are currently permitted on the Auger Hole Trail from the Frozen Creek Access to Turkey Pen Gap on the western boundary of the park.

Key Links:
Gorges State Park
Gorges Park Map
The Foothills Trail

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Place Names in the Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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Have you ever looked at a map of the Smoky Mountains, or maybe have been hiking in the Smokies, and wondered; “where did that name come from?" or "what in the world does that mean?". The following is a list of several place names and regional terms that help explain the meaning and historical origins of some of those names and places that may have had you perplexed.

Abrams Falls: The waterfall and the creek are named after the Cherokee Indian Chief, Oskuah, who later adopted the name Abram (or Abraham) whose village once stood several miles downstream.

Albright Grove: The grove is named after Horace Albright, the second director of the National Park Service. He was also an early advocate for national park status for the Smoky Mountains.

Alum Cave: The State of Tennessee sold this tract of land to three men who formed the Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company in 1838. The firm mined minerals at the bluff, such as alum, epsom salt, saltpeter, magnesia, and copperas. The epsom salts were used by mountain folk to dye homespun clothing a reddish brown. During the Civil War the Confederate Army mined saltpeter out of the cave, which they used to manufacture gunpowder.

Andrews Bald: Andrews Bald is probably named after Andres Thompson, an early settler who used the mountain for hunting.

Balds: Treeless mountain tops or ridges occurring below treeline in the Southern Appalachians are known as "balds". Botanists recognize a second species of "balds" known as "heath balds" which are characterized by treeless tangles of rhododendron and other shrubs in the heath family. Other names, such as laurel bed, lettuce bed, rough, slicks, wooly, and laurel hell, are all local names for balds. Botanists aren’t certain as to whether any of the balds in the Southern Appalachians are natural, or if they were all man made.

Beard Cane Trail: This trail in the far northwestern corner of the Smokies is named for the cane variety that grows in Cades Cove where the terrain is moist.

Boogerman Trail: This trail located in the Cataloochee Valley, and is named for Robert Palmer, whose nickname was "Boogerman." Legend has it that on Palmer's first day of school the teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Palmer replied "the Boogerman," and the name would stick into adulthood.

Cades Cove: Though the origin of the cove's name is disputed, most believe it was named for Cherokee Chief Cade (or Kade), who once claimed the land. Abrams Creek, which flows through Cades Cove, is named after Chief Abram. The long standing theory was that the cove was named after his wife, Kate. However, that theory has apparently been discredited in recent years.

Cataloochee: This valley in the southeastern part of the Park is thought to be a corruption of the Cherokee word “Gadalutsi," which is variously translated as "fringe standing erect" or "wave upon wave" in reference to the trees along the valley’s ridge crests.

Charlies Bunion: The name of this rock out-cropping along the Appalachian Trail was derived when Charlie Conner went hiking one day with Horace Kephart, an early proponent of a national park in the Smokies. When they paused for a rest on the rocks, Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion that looked like the surrounding rocks. Looking at Conner’s feet, Kephart remarked, "Charlie, I’m going to get this place put on a government map for you." And so he did. Charlies Bunion was originally known as Fodderstack.

Chimney Tops: Chimney Tops was given its name as a result of its unique dual-humped peak tops. The Cherokee name for Chimney Tops is Duniskwalgunyi, or "forked antler", referring to its resemblance to the antlers of a deer.

Clingmans Dome: The highest point in the Smokies, at 6643 feet, is named for Thomas Lanier Clingman, the first man to accurately measure the peak's elevation. Arnold Guyot named the mountain after the former Confederate general because of an argument between Clingman and a professor at the University of North Carolina, Elisha Mitchell, over which mountain was actually the highest in the region.

Cove: A cove is a widening out of a mountain valley, or a meadow land between mountains. Coves are closely related to "hollows" or "hollers" which are small valleys; or bottoms, which is characterized by flat terrain, usually along a stream.

Cucumber Gap Trail: This trail gets its name from the cucumber magnolia that grows in this area. The immature seed cones from the tree look like cucumbers.

Elkmont: The Knoxville Elks Club once held its summer meetings in this area. The gatherings gave rise to the land being called "Elk Mountain," which was later shortened to Elkmont.

Gatlinburg: Originally called White Oaks Flats, there are many stories as to how Gatlinburg got its name, all involving a controversial figure who settled here in 1854. Radford C. Gatlin opened the town's second general store. After the post office was established in his store in the mid-1800s, the town was renamed to Gatlinburg.

Gracie’s Pulpit: This landmark just past Alum Cave is named after Gracie McNichol, who hiked to Mount LeConte on her 92nd birthday. The pulpit marks the halfway point to the summit of Mt. LeConte along the Alum Cave Trail.

Grapeyard Ridge Trail: This trail located off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is named after the wild grapes that grew in this area.

Gregory Bald: This bald overlooking Cades Cove is named after Russell Gregory, an early settler in the area. He and other cove residents used the field to graze cattle during the spring and summer when the fields in the cove were needed for growing crops. Like most Cades Cove residents, Gregory supported the Union during the Civil War. He was ambushed and murdered by Confederate guerillas from North Carolina in 1863.

Holy Butt: Allegedly for religious reasons, an area resident known as Aunt Lydia renamed the mountain and stream from "Holly Branch" to "Holy Butt."

Juney Whank Branch: The stream and the falls are more than likely named for Junaluska "Juney" Whank, a man said to be buried in the area. However, there are some people who believe Juney Whank is a Cherokee phrase that means "where the bear passes".

Knob: A “knob" is a mountain top.

Lead Cove Trail: The name of this trail near Cades Cove is supposedly derived from the ore that was extracted here in the 1800s.

Licklog Branch: Herders used to cut deep notches into fallen trees and fill them with salt for their livestock near rivers and streams.

Mellinger Death Ridge: The ridge purportedly received its name when Jasper Mellinger went walking along the ridge and became caught in an illegal bear trap. Sometime later the trappers found him alive. Rather than risk their illegal operation being discovered, they opted to kill him. Mellinger's body was found a year later after one of the culprits confessed to the crime.

Meigs Mountain: Is named after Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, a Revolutionary War veteran who conducted an early survey of the Smokies around 1802. He also served as Indian Agent for the Cherokee Nation from 1801 to 1823. Although the reason for naming this particular mountain after Meigs is unknown, Meigs supposedly hung a brightly-colored blanket atop the adjacent mountain, now known as Blanket Mountain, for use as a compass reference point, suggesting he conducted operations in the area.

Mount Cammerer: The mountain is named after Arno Cammerer, the well liked Director of the National Park Service in the 1930s. Cammerer was an instrumental figure in helping to establish a national park in the Smokies. With the help of Colonel David C. Chapman of Knoxville, Cammerer convinced John D. Rockefeller Jr. to make a gift of $5 Million, which was used to purchase the lands that would become the national park. After his death in 1941 the peak formerly known as "White Rocks" received his name. Mount Cammerer is also known for the historic fire tower that sits atop the mountain.

Mount Chapman: The 4th highest mountain in the Smokies is named after Colonel David C. Chapman, a Knoxville business leader who led efforts to establish a national park in the Smokies. As head of the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission from 1927-1937, Chapman raised funds and negotiated hundreds of land purchases that made the establishment of the park possible.

Mount Guyot: The second highest mountain in the Smokies is named after a distinguished Swiss-born physical geographer, Arnold Guyot. In 1856, 1859, and 1860, Guyot, who was assisted by a local guide, conducted the first detailed surveys of the area now inside the Park.

Mount Kephart: is named for Horace Kephart, who quit his job as a librarian in St. Louis to live among the people of the Smoky Mountains. His book, Our Southern Highlanders, details his experiences during that time period. He also campaigned for the establishment of a national park in the Smokies, and lived just long enough to know that the park would be created. He died tragically in a car accident in 1931. Two months before his death, Mount Kephart was named in his honor.

Mount LeConte: There is considerable controversy over which member of the LeConte family the third highest mountain in the Smokies was named for. Most people, including the USGS, assume that Joseph LeConte, the famous geologist and charter member of the Sierra Club, is the man for whom the mountain was named. However, that claim has been challenged in recent years. The authors of A Natural History of Mount Le Conte, and the Georgia Encyclopedia, both claim the name honors Joseph’s older brother, John, who was famous as a scientist and as president of the University of California, at Berkeley. Allegedly, Samuel Buckley, a geologist, named the peak after John to thank him for his help measuring the peak's elevation.

Mount Sequoyah: Named after the Cherokee silversmith who created an alphabet for the Cherokee language. In the space of two years nearly all of his people could read and write the language.

Mount Sterling: According to early residents of the area the mountain was named after a 2-foot wide lead streak was discovered in the bed of the Pigeon River, near the mountain's northern base. The early residents mistakenly thought the lead was silver.

Newfound Gap: Named after a new passage was discovered in the late 1850s, which offered settlers a shorter route through the main range of the Smoky Mountains.

Oconaluftee: comes from the Cherokee word egwanulti, which means "by the river," a reference to one of the oldest Cherokee villages along the river. The Cherokee word was corrupted in pronunciation and spelling by the European settlers who arrived in the early 1800s. The word became Oconaluftee, and soon, by association, grew to mean the river itself.

Road to Nowhere: Lakeview Drive just outside of Bryson City is now known as "The Road To Nowhere" by most local residents. The construction of the 6-mile scenic drive came about when citizens of Swain County gave up the majority of their land for the creation of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During the 1930s and 40s hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes to make way for these Federal projects. Additionally, when the TVA filled Fontana Lake, Old Highway 288 was buried beneath its waters, and with it, many of those people lost access to their family cemeteries. In exchange for their lands, however, the Federal Government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road along the north shore of the lake, thus giving displaced residents access to old family cemeteries. Unfortunately for Swain County citizens, environmental issues stopped construction of the road at the tunnel, and it was never completed. As you might expect, lawsuits ensued. After a decades-long fight the dispute with Swain County residents was finally resolved in February of 2010 when the US Department of Interior signed a settlement agreement that paid Swain County $52 million in lieu of building the road.

Russell Field: This bald on the Appalachian Trail is thought to be named after Russell Gregory, an early settler in the Cades Cove area. He and other cove residents used the field to graze cattle during the spring and summer when the fields in the cove were needed for growing crops. Like most Cades Cove residents, Gregory supported the Union during the Civil War. He was ambushed and murdered by Confederate guerillas from North Carolina in 1863.

Shuckstack: The peak earned its name for its resemblance to corn stalks during fall harvest.

Smokemont: As one of the base camps for the Champion Fibre Company, Smokemont was once a thriving lumber town with homes, businesses and a school. It also housed a logging mill, commissary, a club house, and even a hotel. In the early 1920s the sawmill at Smokemont produced up to 45,000 feet of lumber and pulp wood per day. It’s now a campground maintained by the National Park Service.

Smoky Mountains: The Park is named for the mist or blue haze that surrounds the mountains resulting from the interaction between the moist environment of streams and waterfalls and the thick vegetation. The Cherokee name for the area, Sha-co-na-qe, means "place of blue smoke."

Spence Field: is named after James Spence who built a cabin in this area in 1830. The History of the Grassy Balds in GSMNP, an online book on the National Park Web Site, states that both Russell and Spence Fields aren't natural grassy balds, but were actually cleared by settlers for the purposes of grazing cattle.

Sugarlands: When the first American settlers arrived in the early 19th century they named this valley near Gatlinburg after the many sugar maple trees growing in the area at the time. Syrup was made from the sap in these trees, and was used as a sweetener in the days before the availability of cane sugar.

Townsend: In 1900, hoping to capitalize on the thick virgin forests of the Smokies, Colonel W.B. Townsend of Pennsylvania purchased 86,000 acres of land along Little River, stretching from Tuckaleechee Cove all the way to Clingmans Dome. The following year, Townsend received a charter for his new firm, the Little River Lumber Company. A band saw mill was erected in Tuckaleechee, and Townsend gave his name to the community that grew in the mill's vicinity.

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Tennessee State Parks to Host After Thanksgiving Hikes

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Tennessee State Parks will be offering hikers an excellent chance to work off some of that turkey and dressing the day after Thanksgiving. Parks across the state will be offering free, guided hikes on Friday, November 28th. The fourth in the quarterly hikes program, the "After Thanksgiving Hikes" will be offered at each of the 55 state parks in Tennessee.

“The After Thanksgiving Hikes are a perfect way to spend time with family and friends while working off that holiday feast,” Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “Enjoy the beautiful fall scenery that Tennessee has to offer at one of our great state parks.”

From Meeman-Shelby to Fall Creek Falls to Roan Mountain and every state park in between, the 2014 After Thanksgiving Hikes are designed for all ages and abilities. Some hikes will be approximately one mile in length and tailored for novice hikers, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers. For a more in-depth look into all the planned hikes being offered, please click here.

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Collections Preservation Center Groundbreaking

Friday, November 14, 2014

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National Park Service (NPS) officials were joined by representatives from Senator Bob Corker’s office, Representative John Duncan’s office, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and AMEC Environment and Infrastructure Inc. to break ground on the new NPS Collections Preservation Center.

The NPS facility will preserve 418,000 artifacts and 1.3 million archival records documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee, including Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River. AMEC Environment and Infrastructure Inc. from Knoxville was awarded the contract to build the new 14,000 square-foot facility on a 1.6 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (GSMHC) in Townsend, TN which was donated to the park from GSMHC.

Funding for the $ 4.125 million facility was made possible through public-private partnerships bringing together both federal funds and public donations. The Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association donated $1.9 million for the construction of the building.

The new facility centralizes irreplaceable materials in a conveniently located, secure, climate-controlled space in which they will be preserved, as well as office and lab space where they can be studied by NPS staff and visiting researchers. In addition to providing construction funds, our partner Great Smoky Mountains Association is also providing support for a librarian to help catalog and care for the items as well as assist park descendants, researchers, and visitors access materials for study.

The historic artifacts include pre-historic projectile points, logging-era equipment, vintage weapons, clothing, farm implements, tools and other possessions that would have been found on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days such as everyday items including hair combs, butter churns, beds, looms, and spinning wheels, all handmade and all one-of-a-kind. The collection also includes documentary history through oral histories of Southern Appalachian speech, folklore, official documents, photographs and stories. Having these artifacts more accessible will also allow more opportunities for the NPS to share items with approved public museums for temporary display, including the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

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Improvised Explosive Device Found Near Trail In Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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The NPS is reporting this morning that an improvised explosive device (IED) was found near a trail in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia.

On November 4th, a park visitor found a backpack which was left unattended in the Vickery Creek Unit adjacent to a hiking trail. The visitor checked the backpack to identify an owner and noticed what appeared to a possible improvised explosive device.

Ranger Jay Kolodzinski and a Roswell PD officer looked for and found the backpack. An explosives disposal unit from Cobb County PD responded along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Terrorism Task Force special agents, and bomb technicians from the Atlanta Field Office. The Cobb County team rendered the suspected improvised explosive device safe.

Due to nightfall, the scene was secured overnight by Rangers Anthony Winegar and Mel Johnson from Kennesaw Mountain NBP. The FBI Evidence Recovery Team, Atlanta Field Office, and Sandy Springs Georgia, Police Crime Scene Unit processed the crime scene.

The FBI is the lead agency on the investigation. No other information is available at this time.

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Big South Fork’s John Muir Trail Extension Now Open

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A new 2.3 mile section of the John Muir Trail in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, from Devils Den to Honey Creek Loop, was completed this past National Public Lands Day, September 27, 2014. This new connection allows hikers to travel approximately 39 miles on the John Muir Trail from Pickett State Forest all the way to Honey Creek Loop trailhead. The new section of the John Muir Trail is also blazed as part of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail and the new section allows the extension of the Trace 14 miles deeper into the Big South Fork NRRA.

Some of the costs related to the trail work were made possible by a donation to the Big South Fork NRRA from the Sheltowee Trace Association, a volunteer-based non-profit. "This new section of the John Muir Trail enables us to co-locate the Sheltowee Trace on some of the most beautiful, rugged terrain that showcases some of the best trail in the Big South Fork," said Steve Barbour, executive director of the Sheltowee Trace Association. "We see this addition as another step forward toward our goal of eventually connecting the Trace to the Cumberland Trail."

The Sheltowee Trace is a 319 mile National Recreation Trail that was created in 1979 and now stretches from Honey Creek Loop in the Big South Fork NRRA to northern Rowan County, Kentucky. The trail is named after Daniel Boone, who was given the name Sheltowee (meaning "Big Turtle") by members of the Shawnee tribe.

For information on hiking and other recreation opportunities in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, please call (423) 286-7275.

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Tennessee State Parks Announce Special Winter Rates

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Tennessee State Parks will offer special winter rates for 360 cabins in 18 parks across the state, along with individual rooms at six state park inns, from Nov. 15, 2014, through March 15, 2015. With a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in Tennessee, families and groups seeking unique recreation opportunities and high-quality accommodations can find the perfect getaway – all at an exceptional value and a bit closer to home.

With a Tennessee State Parks special winter discount, park visitors can stay at one of Tennessee’s six state park inns for $59.95 a night (excluding tax). The inn discount may be used seven days a week and applies to both individuals and groups. Cabins ranging from premium to rustic are priced at two for one, Sunday through Thursday. Some holiday weeks are not included. Discounts are based on availability and certain other restrictions may apply. At participating restaurants, guests can package a breakfast for two for an additional $10.

There is no coupon necessary for this special rate and patrons simply need to ask for “Special Winter Promotion” when making a reservation. When making online reservations please ensure the available code for the special winter rate or cabin discount is applied. While reservations are not required, they are highly recommended to ensure availability.

Special winter rates are not valid with other discounts. For more information about the special promotion, please call the Tennessee State Parks information line at (615) 532-0001 or toll free at 1-888-867-2757. For additional information or to make online reservations, please visit the Tennessee State Parks website.

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Nine Rivers: A Canadian Adventure

Saturday, November 8, 2014

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Nine rivers, four men and two canoes. This excellent film follows four adventurers on a month-long, one-thousand kilometre (621 miles) canoe journey through the Canadian shield. The group shares the hardships and splendor of the North on this journey to Hudson Bay.

This film is fairly long compared to most I post on this blog, but it's very well done, and takes you through an area of North America that most people will never see. Although this was a major expedition, it's something a common person could accomplish (as opposed to having to be a super-fit athlete). Actually, I would love to do something like this some day...

Hope you enjoy:

Nine Rivers from Matt Perpick on Vimeo.

Hiking in the Smokies
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Have craft brewers jumped the shark?

Friday, November 7, 2014

I have a question for beer lovers and common sewers, I mean connoisseurs: Has the whole craft beer industry jumped the shark?

In recent years there's been a growing trend towards extreme levels of hops and flavors not normally associated with beer. Some of the flavors I've seen or heard about - that have gone way out on the limb - include chile peppers, avocados, coconut curry, oysters, pine needles and even smoked ham and bacon! Hey, I'm all for experimentation, but I think we've reached the point where brewmasters have become self-indulgent to a certain extent. To use a pop music analogy, it feels like the craft brewing industry is nearing the end of the disco era, or the "hair metal" band era of the late 80s.

To continue with the music analogy, I think we're approaching the point where we're going to have to take all those albums (funky beer recipes) up to Comiskey Park and burn them after a White Sox game to make my (our?) point. It's time to get back to the roots of great beers.

While sipping on a German pilsner last weekend I came to the realization that the Germans, English, Irish and the Belgian Monks perfected the art of beer making several centuries ago. The reason these traditional beer makers have survived all these years is because they have focused on flavor. Sadly, many American craft brewers seem to have abandoned this fundamental reason for drinking beer. I'm certainly not bashing all American craft brewers. There are many who are making some absolutely great beers, such as Anderson Valley's Boont Amber Ale and Brother David’s Double Abbey Style Ale, or Big Sky's Moose Drool, or Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter, or Highland Brewing Company's Gaelic Ale, or Mt. Carmel Brewing Company's Amber Ale - to name just a few. Unfortunately, very few places sell these brews on tap, opting instead to sell the outrageous flavors of the month.

All I'm saying, is give taste a chance! Am I the only one going "against the grain"?

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Park Plans Controlled Burns in Cades Cove

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials are planning a series of controlled burns in Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin in early November and continue intermittently through the rest of the month.

Controlled burns are used to reduce woody encroachment into the fields, perpetuate native herbaceous species, reduce exotic plant species, and maintain the historic, open character of the cove. These seasonal controlled burns help support native species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

“The controlled burns provide a great opportunity for the public to witness first hand our resource management efforts and to learn about the role of fire in our National Parks,” said Fire Management Officer Dave Loveland.

The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures of side roads and trails may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas. Visitors should park at these designated areas for information. Visitors should not stop in roadways unless directed to by park staff.

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Nearly Half of All Americans Participate in Outdoor Recreation

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Almost 143 million Americans, or 49.2 percent of the US population, participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2013. Although the actual number of outdoor participants increased since 2012, the participation rate fell slightly, due to population growth. The findings are part of The Outdoor Foundation’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the leading report tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation with a focus on youth and diversity.

The Outdoor Foundation’s eighth annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Report helps the outdoor industry, public agencies and community organizations better understand the trends in outdoor recreation participation, enabling groups to address America’s inactivity crisis and the disconnect between children and the outdoors. The report is based on an online survey of more than 19,000 Americans ages six and older and covers 114 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its kind.

The study, which provides an in-depth look at youth, shows mixed results about the youngest generations’ participation in outdoor activities. Participation among teenage girls made up for some of the losses seen in 2012 by adding three percentage points. Meanwhile, participation rates among girls and young women increased by two percentage points — bringing young women’s participation to the highest rate since 2006. Participation among male youth, on the other hand, either fell or remained steady.

“The Outdoor Participation Report shows that the percentage of female youth who are inspired to enjoy the outdoors is on the rise,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Although encouraged by the report’s findings, we also recognize that the importance of continuing efforts to engage all young people in outdoor recreation so that we may foster a new generation of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and committed stewards.”

The insights detailed in the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report are critical to national efforts seeking to understand outdoor participation and continuing to reverse America’s inactivity crisis. Some of the additional findings include:


• While 8.1 million Americans started participating in one or more of the outdoor activities measured, 7.4 million stopped. There was net gain of 700,000 total participants and a low churn rate of 5.2 percent.

• Participants went on a total of 12.1 billion outdoor outings in 2013, a minor decrease from 12.4 billion in 2012.

• Almost one-quarter of all outdoor enthusiasts participated in outdoor activities at least twice per week.

• Running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular activity among Americans when measured by number of participants and by number of total annual outings.

• Fifty-five percent of people living in the West North Central region of the US participated in outdoor activities last year, making its population the most active in outdoor participation.

• Walking for fitness is the most popular crossover activity.

• The biggest motivator for outdoor participation was getting exercise.


• Among children and young adults, participation rose one percentage point, while the rates among the two older age groups lost one percentage point. Teenagers maintained the same participation rate.

• Youth who did not participate in outdoor activities said they were simply not interested in the outdoors.

• Among adults who are current outdoor participants, 74 percent had physical education and 41 percent enjoyed outdoor activities in elementary school.


• As seen in previous reports, outdoor participation is highest among Caucasians and lowest among African Americans.

• Although Hispanics Americans made up a small percentage of total outdoor participants, those who did participate averaged the most annual outdoor outings per person.

• Running was the most popular outdoor activity for all Americans regardless of ethnic or racial affiliation.

Download a complete copy of the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report.

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Laurel Falls Trail Temporarily Closed Due to Storm Damage

Monday, November 3, 2014

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the temporary closure of Laurel Falls Trail due to storm damage. The trail will reopen on Friday, November 7.

The trail received between 7 and 8 inches of snow during the storm event on November 1. The heavy, wet snow clung to the foliage causing several trees and limbs to come down blocking the trail. In addition, a tree uprooted near the trail pulling out a 5-foot section of paved trail.

“Laurel Falls is one of our most popular trails in the park and we are working diligently to make the needed repairs so that it can be safely reopened for hikers,” said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan.

Trail crews will construct a 20-foot-long retaining wall to rebuild the missing trail segment and remove fallen trees along the entire 1.7 miles of trail. The park expects to reopen the trail on Friday morning.

For more information on road and trail closures, please visit the park website. For more information on the hike to Laurel Falls, please click here.

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115 Years and Counting: Volunteers Get Ready for Audubon Christmas Bird Count

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The National Audubon Society invites volunteers across the western hemisphere to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Between December 14, 2014 and January 5, 2015 tens of thousands of participants will brave inclement weather to help scientists assess and guide significant conservation efforts at a scale they could not accomplish alone.

Each year, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count mobilizes over 70,000 volunteer observers in more than 2,400 locations. It produces the most comprehensive data set depicting the fluctuation, range and movement of bird populations across the continent. Scientists rely on this trend data to better understand how birds and the environment are faring and what needs to be done to protect them. Every local count is part of this vast volunteer network and continues a holiday tradition that stretches back over 100 years.

“The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy at enormous scales in this country. I couldn’t be prouder of the volunteers who contribute each year,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold.

Many decades of data not only helps identify birds in need of conservation action, it also reveals success stories. The CBC helped document the comeback of the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and significant increases in waterfowl populations, all promising results of conservation efforts.

Last year’s count shattered records. A total of 2,408 counts and 71,659 observers tallied over 66 million birds of 2,403 different species. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces and over 100 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.

One of the most significant avian incursions recorded during last year’s CBC included the record flight of Snowy Owls in the East Coast and Great Lakes. It was the biggest influx ever documented on the CBC and continued through the winter season. Traditional counting of birds together with high-tech modeling and mapping data enabled researchers to make surprising discoveries that would not have been possible in earlier decades.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. While the ultimate goal of participating in a count is tallying a representative sample of the birds on a count day, the natural competitive spirit of birders is what drives them to do the most thorough job possible. The CBC has become a treasured holiday tradition, a reunion with birding friends and a way for anyone to play a small part in a big conservation picture. The growing combined pool of contributed sightings helps researchers understand birds in a way that Chapman could never have conceived back in 1900.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, will be available online. Audubon Christmas Bird Count information is also available online in Spanish. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels. For more information and to find a count near you visit

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Veterans Day Designated a Free State Park Day for Tennessee Veterans

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Tennessee State Parks announced this week its annual free state parks day for all Tennessee veterans offering one free night of camping and/or a complimentary round of golf with appropriate identification. Veterans Day is Tuesday, Nov. 11.

“On Veterans Day we honor the many brave men and women who have served our country,” Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “The state parks family invites all of Tennessee’s veterans to visit us on Nov. 11 and enjoy a day in one of our beautiful parks.”

The free day on Nov. 11 is in addition to Tennessee State Parks’ current veterans’ policy, which includes a camping discount within the state parks system and is available annually beginning November 1 through March 31, offering a 25 percent reduction off the standard nightly base rates (depending on the type of site chosen).

This camping discount is available to Tennessee residents showing proof of prior military duty. A special state park discount also is in place for active duty military personnel and members of the Tennessee National Guard. This year-round discount is given to all U.S. military – regardless of their branch of service or where they are stationed. Disabled veterans also are eligible for the Tennessee State Parks year-round ADA discount that provides a 25 to 50 percent discount for campsites.

To receive the free state parks day benefits and extended discounts, veterans need to provide proof of residency with a Tennessee driver's license; and proof of veteran’s status, with a Certificate of Discharge (DD214) or Veterans Administration benefit card.

Tennessee’s 55 state parks offer diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences for individuals, families, or business and professional groups. State park features range from pristine natural areas to 18-hole championship golf courses. There is a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in the state, offering a variety of recreational, lodging and dining choices. For more information about Tennessee State Parks, visit

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