Development of Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill providing for its establishment. The older parks in the system had been developed by taking sections of land already owned by the government. But the land that eventually became GSMNP was owned by hundreds of farmers and several timber and paper companies. And no one wanted to give up their homes or businesses.
The government is not allowed to buy land for national park use, so the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, which would share the park, appropriated state funds and additional monies were raised by private individuals and groups and even school children who gave their pennies to the cause. A large donation by the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund provided the remainder of the funding.
The first park Superintendant arrived in 1931. Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to develop facilities and restore early settlers' buildings, and on September 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the park "for the permanent enjoyment of the people."
While not the largest of the national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the distinction of being the most visited park with close to ten million visitors each year. The park contains 800 miles of hiking trails (including sections of the Appalachian Trail), 700 miles of fishable streams, camping areas, white water rafting and other family oriented activities. October brings a huge influx of visitors to the park for the fall leaf season.
The area is called Smoky Mountains because they always appear to have a blue haze hanging over them. This is a natural fog caused by warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling quickly at high elevation and also by the respiration of he trees. The mist appears blue because evergreens emit natural hydrocarbons that appear blue in sunlight.
Last week the Playfriends visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park, specifically the areas of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Both areas are filled with fun for everyone including Dollywood, a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Ripley's Aquarium, Ober Gatlinburg ski area, river rafting companies and plenty of shopping. Candy shops abound to showcase what has become a mountain tradition -- lots and lots of fudge. And the area also is home to the Rocky Top Wine Trail, which features three wineries within three miles of each other.
When our visit was over, we returned to Alabama with fudge, fabulous beef jerky (who knew they had a beef jerky outlet?), Christmas decorations, new clothing and accessories, jams and jellies (another mountain tradition) and wine. We did our part to stimulate the economy. :-)
Our week was cut short because of the snow storm moving in. While we'd have loved to be snowed into the mountains, we all had obligations at home requiring us to come on back. ::sigh:: We had a terrific time and the week was filled with lots of fun and laughter. We played board games, ate, shopped, ate, sampled wine, ate, plotted books in the hot tub every night, ate and laughed lots. It's safe to say a fun time was had by all.
Have you ever visited any areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Every visited any of the United States National Parks? Tell me about your experiences. One lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Linda Winstead Jones's recent book LAST OF THE RAVENS, which is set in the Smoky Mountains.