The 300 Million Year Old Park You Can Still Enjoy Today

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most pristine natural areas in the eastern United States. It’s a treasure trove of natural wonders, offering breathtaking mountain scenery, flowing rivers and streams, and ancient hardwood forests that provide a natural habitat for more than 10,000 species of plants, animals and invertebrates. In fact, the park has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.
Here’s a bit of Smoky Mountain trivia that will help make your next visit more enlightening:

  • Established in 1934 as a national park, the Smokies are actually among the oldest mountains in the world, formed 200-300 million years ago when drifting continents collided. Today, it is one of the largest protected land areas east of the Mississippi River, encompassing 520,976 acres.
  • The Smokies are part of the Appalachian Mountains stretching along the eastern coast from Georgia to Canada. The Cherokee Indians named the land Shaconage or “the place of blue smoke.” The Smokies are part of the Blue Ridge Providence, named for their bluish haze.
  • With elevations ranging from 875 feet to 6,643 feet, the Smokies are among the tallest mountains in the Appalachian chain. There are 16 peaks rising upwards from 5,000 feet including Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest summit, which is the third tallest peak east of the Mississippi River. Mount Le Conte is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States at 6,593 feet.
  • There are more than 100 species of native trees in the Smokies, more than in any other North American National Park. Almost 95% of the park is forested including one of the largest deciduous, temperate, old-growth forests in North America. At least 1,600 additional flowering plant species and at 4,000 species of non-flowering plants have been identified in the park.
  • A wide variety of animals make their homes in the Great Smoky Mountains, including the popular black bear, a smaller and less aggressive cousin of the grizzly bear. The park is also home to elk, lungless salamanders and more than 200 species of birds, 66 types of mammals, 50 native fish species, 39 varieties of reptiles, and 43 species of amphibians.

Each year, millions of people travel to the Great Smoky Mountains for family vacations. When you visit the Smokies, make time to explore the vast history of the region as you take in the beauty and have a good time.

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