Great Smoky Mountains National Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers. For this Smoky Mountain special event rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds.
Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, February 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations in the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall. The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.
This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone, no matter what age, to learn more about the amazing biodiversity of the Smoky Mountains. Each season in the mountains is a special time and having the chance to create a scientific record that will help future generations understand this land is a worthy pursuit.
If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, contact Jessica Stump at email@example.com or 828-497-1945 to register for the training. For more information about phenology research efforts across the country visit the National Phenology Network.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Welcomes Record Number of Visitors in 2017. The Smoky Mountain special events for the second year in a row, welcomed over eleven million visitors. In 2017, a record 11,338,894 people visited the national park, which is a
slight increase, 0.2%, over 2016. The park continued to see the highest visitation in July which was followed by October and June. Monthly visitation records were set during the shoulder season months of January, February, April, September, and November in 2017 which follows a pattern of the park seeing increased year-round visitation.
“We strive each year to provide exceptional services to the visitors who come to enjoy the Smokies,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With increasing visitation across seasons, this does not come without challenges. I am proud of the employees who work hard each day to meet these challenges, along with the support of our volunteers and partners who collectively help us care for this incredibly special place.”
In 2017, over 2,800 park volunteers donated over 115,000 hours of service. These volunteers provided much needed help across the park
including trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, and providing visitor information along trails, at visitor centers, and in campgrounds. Visitors spent nearly 400,000 nights camping in the park which was slightly down from 2016, but above the 5-year average. The park offers 9 front country campgrounds and 100 backcountry campsites for visitors to enjoy across the park.
Notably in 2017, the park hosted the largest special event in park history. The western half of the park provided prime viewing to experience totality for approximately 2 minutes during the Great American Total Solar Eclipse. Thousands of visitors participated in ranger-led events on the weekend leading up to the eclipse on Monday, August 21. Over 15,600 people attended eclipse events offered at Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Sugarlands Visitor Center. Over 47,000 visitors entered the park from the four main entrances to view the eclipse on August 21, marking a 64% increase in visitation for that day over 2016. Another 26,000 people watched the live broadcast of the Clingmans Dome event in partnership with NASA and another 6 million people watched the event online from across the world via the NASA 360 broadcast.
For additional Great Smoky Mountains National Park Special Events visit NPS.gov.
Hikers Rejoice As Clingmans Dome Tower Rehabilitation Project Suspended for Winter. Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower has been reopened to the public. The rehabilitation work has been suspended for the winter and is expected to resume this Spring. The remaining work is expected to take approximately two weeks and will necessitate another short-term closure to complete.
Visitors can enjoy views from the tower throughout the winter, however, the Clingmans Dome Road will be inaccessible to motorists from December 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018 due to normal seasonal closures. The road, tower, and entire Clingmans Dome area remain accessible to hikers throughout the winter.
Much of the needed rehabilitation work was completed last Fall, but the final surface overlay still needs to be completed. Deteriorated areas on the concrete columns and walls have been repaired, support walls have been stabilized at the base of the ramp, and stone masonry has been repaired.
The work has been made possible through funding received from a Partners in Preservation (PIP) grant. The $ 250,000 grant was awarded last summer to the Friends of the Smokies on behalf of the park after being one of the top nine, most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks Campaign in 2016.
Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park. The observation tower is a precedent-setting design of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which transformed park planning, management, and architecture and fundamentally altered the visitor experience in national parks. Since 1959, millions of visitors have climbed the tower, where they can see distances of up to 100 miles over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some minimal preservation work today on the tower will ensure that visitors continue to experience this unique structure spiraling up from the highest point in the park.
Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express, in partnership with
the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards preservation grants to historic places across the country. Since 2006, Partners in Preservation, a community-based partnership, has committed $16 million in preservation funding to nearly 200 diverse sites in eight different cities across the country.
Through this partnership, American Express, National Geographic, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve America’s historic and cultural places. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic places at the heart of their communities.
5 Smoky Mountain Breweries You Need to Experience this Year! The HeySmokies region is proud to be home to the finest Breweries in the South East. Sipping a cold beer can wet your whistle on a hot summer day or while relaxing on a cool evening by a Smoky Mountain campfire. It’s arguably the most popular adult beverage at cook outs and sporting events, and everyone has their favorite. For centuries the simplest ingredients of malted grain, water and yeast have been combined to produce a libation enjoyed all over the world!
The advent of microbreweries ushered in a new age of enjoying beer that has taken America by storm, and many varieties and flavors await the discriminating beer connoisseur. As popularity soared craft brewers established themselves in the HeySmokies communities and are letting the good brews flow. Romantic weekends are a great excuse to treat yourself to some tasty suds at these local Smoky Mountain Breweries!
Smoky Mountain Brewery
With four locations in Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, Maryville, and Gatlinburg this popular watering hole is easy to find! Handcrafted small batches ensure the freshness of each pour of their seven core brews. Choose from great flavors of Velas Helles lager, Cherokee Red Ale, Tuckaleechee Porter, Black Bear Ale, Windy Gap Wheat Beer, and Mountain Light. On a warm Smoky Mountain evening the Rasberry Wheat is a great way to cool down. Regular live music makes a flight taste even better. Trivia games are available for those feeling extra intelligent after a few brews!
Nantahala Brewing Company
Nestled in the heart of downtown Bryson City, NC. Nantahala Brewing has the largest daily beer selection on tap with 32 choices. The brewery is hard to miss in a “jumbo” sized quonset hut across the street from the Smoky Mountain Railroad depot. The structure was refurbished in 2009 and is also home to great live music. Nantahala has 5 year round brews, “Dam Release” seasonals, “Big Water” high gravities, and many more specialty guest brews. The HeySmokies team is partial to the “Trail Magic” which we enjoy after our annual Appalachian Trail thru-hiker trail magic dinner! Tours of the facility are available for those interested in learning the nuances of a perfect brew.
Catawba Brewing Company
The Asheville, North Carolina microbrewery scene is second to none and the Catawba Brewing Company is on the cutting edge. If high gravity is your goal you have come to the right place. No matter if your taste is sweet or bitter Catawba satisfies. The surprising “Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout” lives up to its name and always satisfies. The HeySmokies sampling team took a liking to the “Hopness Monster” IPA which has just the right amount of bitter. Other’s in our crew also enjoyed the “White Zombie” White Ale and the “Deep State” Baltic Porter. Of course no visit to this brewery would be complete without tasting a little “Astral Bootie” Session IPA!
Last Days of Autumn
Knoxville, Tennessee has firmly established itself as a craft brew destination and “Last Days” is setting the standard. Starting as a home brewery over 20 years ago owners Mike and Tracy Frede have begun a tasty tradition of fine beers. “Pardon My Garden,” Biff’s Best,” “Juicy J’s,” are a few of the IPA’s to temp your tastebuds. “Rye Pale Ale,” “Last Days ESB,” and the historic “Kentucky Common,” and many more round out the selection.
Burial Beer Company
Residing in and revitalizing the South Slope District of Asheville, NC, the brewery began its life in summer 2013 as a one-barrel system that grew to a ten-barrel in just over a year. The draft selection has what you are thirsty for with many brews to choose such as “The Shattered Remains of Reality” American Imperial double stout, “Massacre of the Innocents” American IPA, “Wandering in the Vast Emptiness” Berlinner Weise Sour, and the HeySmokies favorite “The Triumph of Death” Sumac Saison. No the beer is not brewed with the infamous poison sumac your mother warned you about but it is packed full of delicious flavor. The names of these beers may take you longer to say than it actually takes to drink the beer but that is all part of the fun!
Alliance Brewing Company
This brewery is found across the Tennessee river south of downtown Knoxville and is worth seeking out. Alliance gets the hops and barley and brews them to perfection. Selections include the “Citra Blonde,” An American Blonde ale that is light and clean with a smooth fruity hop finish. Dry hopped with Citra is the “Citra Mosaic,” IPA, brewed with a California Ale yeast. The “Cubano Coffee Brown” is a malty brown ale brewed with cold brewed coffee from Three Bears Coffee Company. The “Oatmeal Stout” and the “Saison 4” also bring something special to the table with their specialty yeast from London and Belgium.
If you enjoy a good beer you will not be disappointed on your next visit to the HeySmokies region. Take a brew tour of our amazing communities and find out what the fuss it about. Come thirsty and take it all in!