Geology of the National Parks

History of Great Smoky Mountains

Cliff Tops on Mount Le Conte, in the Great Smoky Mountains / Public Domain / Aviator31

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the part of the Blue Ridge Mountains located in Tennessee and North Carolina. With over 11.3 million visitors a year,  it is the most visited National Park and contains 522,419 acres of land.  Dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, it is connected by the Blue Ridge Parkway to Shenandoah National Park.  Part of the Appalachian Trail passes through as well.  There are 850 miles of trails available.

In 1976, Great Smoky Mountains NP was designated an International Biosphere Reserve.  Certified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it  also became part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve in 1988.

Almost 95% of the park is forested.  And up to 36% are old growth trees with some that predate European settlement.  Thus making it one of the largest blocks of old growth in the U.S.  With a wide range of elevation and abundant rainfall, the park has over 10,000 species of plants and animals.

Arthur Stupka (the 1st Park Naturalist in the Eastern U.S.) moved here from Arcadia NP in 1935.  He continued his career for 25 years plus another 4 years as the Park Biologist.  A proficient observer and prolific writer, Stupka became internationally known.


Head of Geology Library & Map Room Mathematical Sciences Librarian Science Education Specialist

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Danny Dotson
180E Geology Library
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