The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

Nestled within the majestic peaks of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park stands as a testament to nature’s greatness, humans’ dedication to preservation and the power of collaboration. As one of the most beloved national parks in the United States, the Smokies beckon travelers from far and wide to explore its lush forests, cascading waterfalls, diverse ecosystems, and rich cultural heritage. Over the years, the legacy of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been immortalized through the tireless efforts of countless park rangers, scientists, historians, volunteers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Thanks to the efforts of these dedicated individuals, the park’s story will continue onward. While we can’t foresee what the future of the Smokies may look like, we do have the ability to turn our gaze to the past and explore the rich history surrounding the founding of this magnificent park, almost 90 years ago.

The Origins and Founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

The journey towards the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a sweeping story that began with a vision and quickly transformed into a tale of fervent advocacy, and unexpected philanthropy. At its inception, the idea of a national park in the Smokies seemed like a distant dream, overshadowed by the challenges of land acquisition, political opposition, and economic concerns of the era. However, it was the unwavering determination of individuals like Anne M. Davis and David Chapman that breathed life into this ambitious vision.

Anne Davis, often hailed as the “founding mother” of the park, played a pivotal role in championing the idea of preserving the Smokies’ pristine wilderness for future generations to be able to enjoy. Inspired by her visits to Western national parks in the 1920s, Davis became an ardent advocate for conservation and the moral significance of environmental stewardship. Her tireless efforts to garner support for a national park in the Smokies resonated with a growing chorus of voices calling for the protection of America’s natural treasures. However, Davis’s advocacy extended beyond mere talk; she was actively involved in grassroots organizing, lobbying politicians, and rallying public support for the cause. Her vision was not only to safeguard the Smokies’ ecological integrity but also to ensure that all Americans had access to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities that she had come to love so dearly.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

Nonetheless, the path to establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was fraught with obstacles, chief among them being the issue of land acquisition. Unlike the older national parks in the Western United States, which were largely comprised of (already) federally owned land, the Smokies were divvied predominantly between private groups and families. This posed a significant challenge, as acquiring the large swaths of land necessary for the park’s creation required a delicate balance of negotiation, cooperation, and financial encouragement.

Yet, perhaps the most unexpected catalyst for the park’s formation came in the form of the burgeoning logging industry in the early 20th century. As demand for timber grew exponentially, loggers began to exploit the vast forests of the Smokies with reckless abandon. The once pristine wilderness was now scarred by clear-cutting, logging camps, and the incessant roar of sawmills. Images taken at the time showed stripped hillsides and barren landscapes, a forewarning to what the region’s future looked like if environmental protections were not established quickly.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

The devastation wrought by the logging industry served as a wake-up call to conservationists, policymakers, and civilians alike. It became increasingly clear that without decisive action, the Smokies faced the very real threat of environmental collapse. Soon it became clear that – in order to preserve the last remaining vestiges of old-growth forest in the Eastern United States – the establishment of a national park had become paramount. With the clock ticking down what little time was left, the public’s renewed support for said park became impossible to ignore. In many ways, the logging industry, one of the park’s largest adversaries, inadvertently played a decisive role in galvanizing public support for the park’s creation.

Against this backdrop of environmental degradation and mounting public pressure – along with a massive (and unexpected) donation of approximately five million dollars from America’s first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller Jr. – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was officially established on June 15, 1934. Today, the park stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of those who dared to dream of preserving the Smokies’ natural splendor for future generations.

The Rich Cultural Tapestry of the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

Beyond its breathtaking landscapes, the Smokies harbor a rich tapestry of Southern Appalachian history, woven through the centuries by diverse communities. From the prehistoric Paleo Indians who roamed these lands thousands of years ago to the resilient European settlers and voracious 20th-century loggers, these mountains have borne witness to the triumphs and tribulations of humanity for countless eons.

At the heart of this cultural tapestry lies the legacy of the Cherokee people, whose presence in the Smoky Mountains predates recorded history. For centuries, the Cherokee inhabited these lands, living in harmony with nature and leaving indelible marks on the landscape. Their villages, trails, and traditions provide a window into the past, offering invaluable insights into the region’s rich heritage.

Connecting with the Past in the Smokies

For visitors eager to delve into the park’s storied past, a myriad of opportunities await. Historic districts like Cades Cove beckon with their historic structures, like cabins and a church, offering a glimpse into the lives of early settlers in the region. Museums and visitor centers, such as the Sugarlands Visitor Center or the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, provide immersive experiences that bring the Smokies’ history to life and are perfect for visitors of all ages. For a more in-depth exploration of Cherokee history and culture in the area, you’ll want to head over to the Museum of the Cherokee People in Cherokee, NC.

Ranger-led programs and guided hikes offer invaluable insights into the park’s cultural and natural heritage, while iconic landmarks like the Clingmans Dome Tower and the Walker Sisters’ Cabin offer poignant reminders of the pioneers who once called these mountains home. Whether exploring historic structures, attending interpretive programs, or simply soaking in the beauty of the landscape, visitors have countless opportunities to forge a personal connection with the past in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

After Your Journey to the Past

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday 

After a day chalked full of exploring the Smokies history, head back to your very own luxury retreat seemingly nestled in the cloud above the mountains. Located just minutes from the park’s entrance, Parkside Resort offers unparalleled accommodations and amenities that will ensure an unforgettable Smoky Mountains getaway. Amidst the magnificence of the Smoky Mountains, Parkside Resort stands as a haven of comfort and respite. Each cabin is complete with fully-equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and cozy furnishings, promising a peaceful escape after a busy day of adventure.

As the Great Smoky Mountains National Park commemorates its 90th birthday, it invites travelers to embark on a journey through time as they explore this natural wonder. From its humble beginnings as a vision of preservation to its status as a cherished sanctuary for all, the park embodies the enduring spirit of conservation and discovery. As you plan your next Smoky Mountains getaway, let the pull of history and the promise of luxury guide your adventure into the heart of Appalachia.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates its 90th Birthday

Call us today at 888-908-6066 or visit our website to learn more about our amazing accommodations!