Smokies Extends Comment Period for Campground Fee Proposal

Thursday, June 30, 2016

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park will continue accepting comments through July 12, 2016 on a proposal to increase fees at frontcountry campgrounds and picnic pavilions along with proposed changes to the management of three campgrounds by adding them to the national reservation system through The proposal, titled "Recreational Fee Proposal Information Document," has been available for public review since May 26. The comment process has been amended to allow anonymous comments.

The park held informational open houses on June 20 at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and on June 23 at Park Headquarters where the public was invited to learn more about the proposal and submit written comments. Over 60 comments have been received to date. It is not necessary to re-submit these comments. Park officials recently learned that anonymous comments could be accepted through the National Park Service's Planning, Environmental and Public Comment (PEPC) website. In order to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to comment on the proposal, officials have extended the comment period for an additional 14 days. All comments, including those made anonymously, will be accepted.

Details of the proposal may be found at under "Proposal to Increase Fees at Great Smoky Mountains National Park." Online comments are accepted at this website. Written comments will also be accepted by mail or e-mail addressed as follows:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Attn: Proposal to Increase Fees
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Before including your address, telephone number, electronic mail address, or other personally identifying information in your comments, you should be aware that your entire comment (including your personally identifying information) may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

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Red River Gorge suspension bridge closed to public travel

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The suspension bridge over Red River (in the Red River Gorge) is closed to public travel until further notice. A tree fell on the bridge during a wind storm and broke one of the suspension cables from its clamps. The bridge is unsafe to cross at this time. Repairs will require technical planning but will be made as quickly as possible.

The Red River suspension bridge is part of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail in central Kentucky.

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Join Friends of the Smokies and Take in the Views from Mt. Sterling

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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Hike with Friends of the Smokies on Tuesday, July 12th and take in the views on a Classic Hike of the Smokies to the Mt. Sterling fire tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The guided hike is led by outdoor enthusiast and author Danny Bernstein. The hike to Mt. Sterling is a strenuous 5.4 mile roundtrip hike with a total elevation gain of 2,000 ft.

Sitting at an elevation of 5,842 feet in the Great Smoky Mountains, Mt. Sterling Gap and fire tower are rich in history. Hikers who are familiar with the story of local fiddler Henry Grooms and his companions, whose deaths were depicted in the movie Cold Mountain, will note that this Civil War execution occurred at the Gap where the trail begins.

On the guided hike, participants will also learn how donations made to Friends of the Smokies help fund priority projects including the reduction of backcountry bear problems. Each backcountry campsite and shelter in GSMNP has a pulley and cable system which campers use to hoist their food and packs out of the reach of bears for the increased safety of both visitors and bears. Each year a number of these systems are damaged through use or by falling trees and must be replaced.

Monthly guided day hikes in this series are $20 for members. New members may join Friends of the Smokies and hike for $35. Donations benefit Friends' Smokies Trails Forever program which funds trail rehabilitation in GSMNP.

Visit to register for any Classic Hike of the Smokies. For more detailed information on the hike, please click here.

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National Park Service Announces New National Recreation and Water Trails

Friday, June 24, 2016

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis recently announced the designation of six local and state National Recreation Trails, adding more than 350 miles to the National Trails System. The proclamation also includes three National Water Trails, which adds more than 600 miles to the National Water Trails System.

“By designating these new National Trails, we recognize the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Jewell. “Our world-class network of national trails provides easily accessible places to enjoy exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while also boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities in local communities across the country.”

“The network of national recreation and water trails offers expansive opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors,” said Jarvis. “With summer here, I hope everyone will take advantage of a trail nearby to hike, paddle or bike. It’s a great family outing and an opportunity to fill your lungs with fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the world around us.”

National Recreation Trail designation recognizes existing trails and trail systems that link communities to recreational opportunities on public lands and in local parks across the nation. Each of the newly designated trails will receive a certificate of designation, a set of trail markers and a letter of congratulations from Secretary Jewell.

While national scenic trails and national historic trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, national recreation trails (including national water trails) may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization.

The National Recreation Trails program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of Federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.

For more information and a list of the new trails added to the system, please click here.

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Climbing a Tree to Study Black Bear Hibernation Behavior

Sunday, June 19, 2016

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I must confess, I have never heard of black bears hibernating in trees until seeing this video. Earlier this year the Great Smoky Mountains Association published this short video showing Great Smoky Mountains Wildlife Biologist, Ryan Williamson, climbing an old growth Buckeye tree to confirm that a female black bear, known to have 3 cubs, was denned in a hollowed out cavity inside the tree - roughly 60 feet off the ground!

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Tennessee State Parks Asks Public Not to Move Firewood

Monday, June 13, 2016

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Tennessee State Parks, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and The Nature Conservancy, is advising the public of a new policy regarding bringing firewood into parks.

Beginning this month, Tennessee State Parks will advise visitors to use certified heat-treated wood. The new policy aims to prevent or slow the introduction of exotic insects or diseases into parks that could otherwise threaten the health of our trees and forests.

Visitors who want to have a campfire can bring certified heat-treated firewood into a park or use dead and down wood from an area adjacent to the fire. Manufactured fire logs will also be acceptable. Many parks, in conjunction with approved vendors, will have certified heat-treated firewood available for sale.

“Transportation of firewood is a primary pathway for the introduction of harmful pests and pathogens to Tennessee’s forests and woodlands,” said Jere Jeter, Tennessee State Forester with the Department of Agriculture. “We are pleased that State Parks has taken this important step to reduce the risks of new infestations and assist us with the protection of Tennessee’s trees.”

Forests cover more than 14 million acres, or 52 percent, of Tennessee. Insects can hide or lay eggs in firewood and spread widely if introduced into a park. Heat-treated firewood eliminates this danger by killing pests during the drying process and is safe for a campfire. It lights easily, burns well and is safe to cook over.

Insects and diseases hitchhiking undetected on firewood include the emerald ash borer, thousand cankers disease, hemlock woolly adelgid, gypsy moth and Asian longhorned beetle, among others. All have already killed tens of millions of trees in North America. The pests feed on trees like ash, black walnut, hemlock, oak and maple, disrupting the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients. Infested trees soon die, which means impaired habitat for wildlife, a greater risk for wildfires, reduced timber values, and the loss of some of our state’s most beautiful places.

Tennessee State Parks’ policy is similar to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park policy put into place in March 2015. All Tennessee State Parks that feature overnight accommodations will have information on-site about safe firewood. Visitors should contact specific parks to see if firewood is available to purchase on-site. If firewood is not available at a park, visitors should purchase certified heat-treated firewood before they arrive. is an online directory for firewood vendors, including those who provide certified heart-treated firewood, and is searchable by zip code. Campers are also welcome to collect and burn dead and down wood found in a park.

Visit to learn more about the insects and wood and see a statewide map of where to find heat-treated wood.

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Cradle of Forestry Hosts Free Outdoor Activities on National Get Outdoors Day

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

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The Cradle of Forestry in America will celebrate National Get Outdoors Day on June 11th with outdoor skills demonstrations, activities and crafts. Admission to the site and all activities are free.

The National Get Outdoors Day campaign encourages Americans, especially youth, to pursue healthy and active outdoor lifestyles, connect with nature, and embrace public lands. In this spirit, the Cradle of Forestry will showcase outdoor adventure and camp and trail skills in its scenic setting with a variety of activities on June 11th including:

* Compass practice and map reading
* Demonstration of primitive fire making
* Guided trail walks
* Plant identification
* Nature oriented games and crafts

For details and updates on the day’s activities, call the Cradle of Forestry at 828-877-3130, go to, or the events tab on the Cradle of Forestry Historic Site Facebook page. The Cradle of Forestry is located outside Brevard, NC, on Hwy. 276 in the Pisgah National Forest, six miles north of Looking Glass Falls and four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Clif Bar Issues Voluntary Recall of Three Flavors That May be Contaminated With Listeria

Sunday, June 5, 2016

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Clif Bar & Company is initiating a voluntary recall of CLIF BAR® Nuts & Seeds energy bars, CLIF BAR® Sierra Trail Mix energy bars, and CLIF® Mojo® Mountain Mix® trail mix bars, sold nationally, after its ingredient supplier, SunOpta, was found to have distributed sunflower kernels that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono).

Clif Bar has not received any reports of illness; however, the company is initiating the voluntary recall in an abundance of caution.

Only the flavors meeting the following criteria are affected by the recall:

• CLIF BAR® Nuts & Seeds energy bar all pack configurations with “best by” date ranges starting 08JUN16 through 21JAN17

• CLIF BAR® Sierra Trail Mix energy bar all pack configurations with “best by” date ranges starting 05JUN16 through 24MAR17

• CLIF® Mojo® Mountain Mix® trail mix bar all pack configurations with “best by” date ranges starting 16JUN16 through 02FEB17

Pictures of the products listed above are available here.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in pregnant women, young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

People who have purchased any of the above products are urged not to consume the products and to destroy it. All retailers who received the products are being contacted. Any questions can be directed to 1-888-851-8456. Details also can be found here. Clif Bar is consulting with the FDA on this voluntary recall.

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Celebrate National Trails Day at Shenandoah Tomorrow

Friday, June 3, 2016

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Celebrate American Hiking Society's National Trails Day® in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, June 4, 2016. In partnership with Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) invites new hikers and experienced backpackers to learn new trail skills at PATC Trail Patrol's "Beyond the Trailhead" event at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51 on Skyline Drive) from 9:15 am to 3:30 pm. Come join guided hikes and hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.

With over 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah is a paradise for hikers. There are trails for every goal, from a stroll on the Limberlost Trail to an excursion on the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the rewards and challenges of hiking to mountain summits and cascading waterfalls, while reconnecting with family, friends and yourself.

The National Trails Day® event is designed to give novice hikers the information they need to leave their cars behind and venture beyond the trailhead to enjoy Shenandoah National Park's numerous hiking trails. Experienced hikers can discuss new ideas with PATC members at displays on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and wilderness first aid techniques. Everyone can participate in a hands-on demonstration of the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness, such as crosscut saws, provided by the Shenandoah National Park trail crew throughout the day.

A variety of hikes guided by experienced Trail Patrol members will be offered for people of all ages and experience levels: hikes suitable for families with children as well as easy, moderate, and advanced hikes for adults. Hikers will need to meet at the registration table at Byrd Visitor Center 15 minutes before the hike time to sign in. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season, and bring food and plenty of water for all hikes and a trail lunch for the advanced hikes.

The following hikes will meet at Byrd Visitor Center. Vehicle shuttles may be involved.

* Story of the Forest Trail, Easy, 1.8 miles, 10:00 a.m.

* Appalachian Trail Ramble, Easy, 2.0 miles, 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Dark Hollow Falls Hike, Moderate, 2.0 miles, 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Rose River-Dark Hollow Falls, Advanced, 4.0 miles, 10:00 a.m.

* Rapidan Camp National Historic Landmark, Advanced, 4.0 miles, 9:45 a.m. Pre-registration is encouraged but you may also register on June 4 at Byrd Visitor Center. To pre-register, send an email to Please include your name and which hike you wish to join.

PATC and Trail Patrol are charging no fees to attend or participate in any hike, workshop, or demonstration connected with the event;however, there is a $20-per-car entrance fee to the park (good for seven days). Byrd Visitor Center lies within the park at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. For more information about the event, visit the PATC website at or contact Trail Patrol at For more information on the park, visit the park's website at To see a list of scheduled ranger programs, please visit

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5 Unique Hikes for National Trails Day in Tennessee

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Looking for somewhere unique to hike this weekend? Why not celebrate National Trails Day on June 4th in Tennessee? All 56 state parks in Tennessee are offering hikes to recognize the importance that trails play in connecting us with each other and our environment.

With that in mind, here are five hikes unique hikes on National Trails Day that will not disappoint:

Norris Dam - 12:01 AM Hike
Norris Dam is kicking off the National Trails Day festivities with a 12:01AM hike along the brand new Chucmore Trail. This 4.5-mile loop trail is rated strenuous and is best for adults. This hike is perfect for those who start living life after midnight and who want to experience a brand new trail in the Knoxville area.

Tims Ford - Blueway Water Hike
Not all trails are on dry land. We have more than 60,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks in Tennessee. “Blueways” are trails that move along these bodies of water, offering boat inlets and camping for those hikers looking for a more aquatic approach to the outdoors. The Tims Ford Blueway is one of the newer ones in the state, and is great for canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. The park is providing watercraft and a ranger to lead the hike. The limit is 20 participants, so don’t wait to register.

Roan Mountain - Diamond Dash 5k Trail Run
For those who would rather run than walk a trail, Roan Mountain State Park has you covered. Join us for a tough, scenic and fun 5k trail run. Aftewards, make sure you drive to the top of the mountain and step foot onto the Appalachian Trail. It's a view and experience you won't want to miss. Registration starts at 8:30 AM (Eastern Time) and the race starts at 9 AM, with prizes for the top finishers.

Pickwick Landing - Sneak Peek of a Brand New Trail
Pickwick Landing is offering hikers a sneak peek at a brand new trail in the park. The general public cannot even access this trail. This three-mile hike ranges from moderate to strenuous, but adults and children are all welcome. Plan to put some work into this hike, but know that the views are worth it.

Henry Horton - Rappelling
What other National Trails Day event is offering hikers the option to hike AND rappel? That’s right, this hike heads out to the Observation Tower that overlooks the new wetlands area at Henry Horton State Park. Hikers will even have the opportunity to rappel from the tower.

For more information on these and other hikes being offered around the state, please click here.

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Assault of Hiker Along the Blue Ridge Parkway Under Investigation

Thursday, June 2, 2016

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ISB Special Agents and US Park Rangers from the Blue Ridge Parkway are actively investigating a possible assault that occurred in the area of Craggy Gardens on Thursday afternoon, May 12th.

Rangers and other emergency responders conducted a brief search for a hiker that was reportedly missing. She was found and taken to a local hospital for care.

Investigators do not have reason to believe this incident was anything other than an isolated event, and no suspect information is available at this time. All visitor facilities in the area remain open.

A person of interest in this case is a white male about 50 years old with salt-and-pepper hair, and he may have partially-grown facial hair. The man was possibly wearing a light-colored or faded gray short-sleeve T-shirt, baggy blue pants that appear old and faded, and dark tennis shoes. He may appear generally unkempt and smell of a musty odor of going unwashed.

If you have any information about the incident, or if you may have noticed someone behaving suspiciously around Craggy Gardens or along the Mountains to Sea Trail between noon and 4:00 p.m. on May 12th, please contact the NPS Investigative Services Branch. You don't have to tell them who you are, but at least tell them what you know. You can call their Tip Line at 888-653-0009, or submit an online tip.

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