Sunday 15 June 2014

Great Smoky Mountains

It was on this day in 1934 that a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains was declared The Great Smoky Mountains Park.. Many people have lived in its peaks:  the Cherokee Indians were the first to settle there; homesteaders, loggers and miners moved in by the 18th Century; today it is home to backpackers, sightseers and fly fishermen.  

The smoky Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge mountains which are part of the Appalachians.  The Smoky Mountains, famous for the fog which settles over their peaks, are filled with deciduous, temperate trees along with evergreen trees like the Douglas fir.  Sightseers can snap photos of its many species of birds.  Fly fishermen can fish in its rivers.  And campers might notice one of the 1500 black bears that inhabit the area. Its lowest peak is 876 feet at the mouth of Abrams Creek; its highest peak is 6643 feet at the summit of Clingman's Dome.  

The Cherokee climbed the Smoky Mountain peaks until 1830 when Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, driving the natives out of the area to areas west of the Mississippi, especially Oklahoma Territory.  Many Cherokee left but one renegade warrior remained hidden in the Smoky Mountains.The little Red River Railroad was built to haul lumber out of the mountains, attracting loggers to the area.  Miners and homesteaders also arrived.  

President Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to visit the Smoky Mountains.  Congress authorized the idea of a park as early as 1926.  However, the funding was not yet in place.  Early travel writer Horace Kephart and photographer George Masa helped foster its development.  John D. Rockefeller offered five million dollars towards the project.  The US government offered another two million dollars.  

Work began on the project during the Great Depression.  The Works Project Administration created jobs for the unemployed to build trails and fire watchtowers.  The park officially opened in 1934.  It was not officially dedicated until 1940, by another Roosevelt.  Today, the park receives over 9 million visitors per year.

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