How The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was Formed

Becoming a national park was not easy for the Smoky Mountains. Joining the National Park System took a lot of money and a lot of work by thousands of people. Establishing most of the older parks located in the western United States, such as Yellowstone, was fairly easy. Congress merely carved them out of lands already owned by the government-often places where no one wanted to live anyway. Getting park land in this area was a different story. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was owned by hundreds of small farmers and a handful of large timber and paper companies. The farmers did not want to leave their family homesteads, nor did the large corporations want to abandon huge forests of timber, many miles of railroad track, extensive systems of logging equipment, and whole villages of employee housing.

The idea started in the late 1890s. A few farsighted people began to talk about a public land preserve in the cool, healthful air of the southern Appalachians. A bill even entered the North Carolina Legislature to this effect, but failed. By the early 20th century, many more people in the North and South were pressuring Washington for some kind of public preserve, but they were in disagreement on whether it should be a national park or a national forest.

There are important differences between national parks and national forests, and each concept had its cheering section. In a national forest, consumptive use of renewable resources is permitted under the multiple use management concepts. Because the forests were initially set aside for timber harvesting and grazing, the national forests were made a bureau in the Department of Agriculture.

In a national park, however, the scenery and resources are protected, and nature is allowed to run its course. The ultimate decision to establish a national park meant that the scenery, resources, and some of the native architecture would be protected for all people to enjoy into the infinite future.

The drive to create a national park became successful in the mid-1920s, with most of the hard working supporters based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. The two groups had long been competitors over the location of the national park, but they finally began pulling together for a park in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, halfway between the two cities.

As a matter of past history and present interest, the park movement was directed not by the hardcore conservationists, backpackers, and trout fishermen, but motorists. The newly formed auto clubs, mostly branches of the AAA, were interested in good roads through beautiful scenery on which they could drive their shiny new cars.

In May, 1926, a bill was signed by President Calvin Coolidge that provided for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. This allowed the Department of the Interior to assume responsibility for administration and protection of a park in the Smoky Mountains as soon as 150,000 acres of land had been purchased. Since the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use, the former political boosters had to become fund raisers.

In the late 1920s, the Legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina appropriated $2 million each for land purchases. Additional money was raised by individuals, private groups, and even school children who pledged their pennies. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been raised. Trouble was, the cost of the land had now doubled, so the campaign ground to a halt. The day was saved when the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund donated $5 million, assuring the purchase of the remaining land.

But buying the land was difficult, even with the money in hand. There were 6,000 small farms, large tracts, and other miscellaneous parcels that had to be surveyed, appraised, dickered over, and sometimes condemned in court. The timber and paper companies had valuable equipment and standing inventory which required compensation.

Worse, in some ways, were the emotional losses to people who had to walk away from their homes. A later survey of the displaced people showed that about half took the money and ran and were glad to have it; while the other half expressed feelings from mild inconvenience to outright hostility. Some people were allowed to stay under lifetime leases, particularly if they were too old or too sick to move. Younger ones were granted leases on a short-term basis, if they wanted to try to stick it out. However, they could not cut timber, hunt and trap at will, or otherwise live as they always had.

The first Superintendent of the new park arrived in 1931, Major J. Ross Eakin. By 1934, the states of Tennessee and North Carolina had transferred deeds for 300,000 acres to the federal government. Congress thus authorized full development of public facilities.

Much of the early development of facilities and restoration of early settlers’ buildings was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an agency created during the Depression to provide work and wages for unemployed young men. The CCC worked from 1933 to 1942 when World War II finally shut the program down. Many of the trails, campgrounds, and the beautiful stone bridges and buildings that still stand today are examples of their work..

The final touch in the creation of the Smoky Mountain National Park was its formal dedication by President Franklin Roosevelt in September, 1940. He stood on and spoke from the Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap astride the Tennessee – North Carolina state line. That ceremony dedicated a sanctuary that is not a local park, a county park, or even a state park, but a national park for all the people of the country and the rest of the world to enjoy.

Gatlinburg: A family tradition

Visitor Information for Gatlinburg, Tennessee: “Somewhere between the first ride and the last hike, it will dawn on you. You’re getting a true mountain experience. Gatlinburg really is the perfect place for your family vacation and to stay and play.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is full of amusements and is surrounded by the nation’s most popular national park. Whether you stay here for two days or a week, with your entire family or just the two of you, it will be a vacation you’ll remember for a lifetime. Most of the visitors have been to Gatlinburg before. Perhaps it started with their parents or grandparents, but now it’s an annual retreat. If you’ve never been here, then it’s time to start a tradition of your own.
No matter where you stay in Gatlinburg, you will be nestled in the mountains. Great views abound. Choose from a wide range of hotels, motels and cabins. You can’t go wrong with either selection. Whether it’s the ‘something for everyone’ aspect of this fun mountain town or the allure of the surrounding natural beauty, this is the perfect family tradition.
You’ve seen mountains before. But nothing can prepare you for the awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” This information is brought to you by Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.
I can say from my own experience, that Gatlinburg is an excellent place for family vacations and romantic getaways. It seems like it is a perfect tradition to getaway to the mountains, take in some nature, and escape the chaos of the “real” world. After initially staying in a hotel downtown Gatlinburg, I won’t forget the 1st time I stayed in a log cabin perched above the City of Gatlinburg in 1987. It was an amazing experience with the solitude, the elevation, & the views of Downtown Gatlinburg. It was our home away from home, and my father ended up purchasing the place about two weeks later from the Land of Lincoln (Illinois). Thus, it became our place to visit and continue a family tradition of vacationing in the mountains of Southeastern Tennessee. Try it & you’ll always come back!

Smoky Mountains National Park hikes in a nutshell by Adam

I would like to introduce you to our areas best kept secret. Once you get through Sevierville then Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg you will enter The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I am born and raised in Sevierville and feel so blessed to have the national park in my back yard. My dad exposed me to this great escape every chance he had. I found myself on the trails pondering what nature is. I found that my definition is the equal of spirituality. Once outside of the hustle and bustle of town there is serenity, quiet, and insight to all blessings and problems as well. There are so many options and skill levels to choose from. You can see waterfalls or rise above and see what seems to be a never ending view of mountain tops peeking through the clouds. For beginners I recommend the Gatlinburg Trail. You can park at The Happy Hiker at traffic light #10 and the trail head is located across the street behind the water treatment plant. This trail will take you to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Just before you get to the visitors center there is a waterfall called Cataract Falls, a must see. While you are there go through the visitor’s center. There you will see wildlife and have Park Rangers on duty to help you plan your ideal hike. If you are looking for intermediate hiking, check out Alum Cave Bluff. This trail will take you to the highest peak in the Smokies, Mt. LeConte. Last but not least, for the strenuous hike I recommend Chimney Tops Trail. This hike is great but will wear you out. At the top of the Chimneys there is a huge rock to walk out onto for the added experience of standing on a mountain side peak. I highly recommend any hike in the park. You do have park rangers available to you at the Sugarlands Visitors Center to assist you in finding the perfect hike for you! Next time you are in our area I would encourage you to go to the Smokies, find a trail, park your car, and take a hike!  And Best of all, they are FREE!!!!  They also allow you to spend time with your friends & family and make memories that last a lifetime! – Adam