Whiteoak Sink Wildlflower Hike

Whiteoak Sinks wildflower hikes are one of a kind!
Whiteoak Sinks wildflower hikes are one of a kind!

Whiteoak Sink Wildlflower Hike. Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the implementation of a trial reservation system for group access to the Whiteoak Sink area during the 2021 wildflower season beginning Monday, April 12 through Friday, April 30. This trial project will allow managers to determine if better coordinating group access can reduce trampling and soil compaction around sensitive plant populations.  

Beginning March 11 at 10:00 a.m., group leaders may make reservations at www.recreation.gov for a special park use permit to access the area for groups of eight to twelve people. Leaders may reserve either a morning permit, allowing access from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., or an afternoon permit, allowing access from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Two permits will be issued each weekday during the reservation period. A standard special park use fee of $50 is required for each permit, along with a $6 reservation fee. Payments must be made online through www.recreation.gov at the time of reservation. Group leaders may reserve two permits per season.  

During the trial period, groups of more than twelve people are not allowed in the area at any time. In addition, no permits will be issued on weekends. The intent of the trial reservation system is to better protect sensitive wildflower species that can be damaged when large groups crowd around plants off-trail to take photos or closely view blooms. Individuals and small groups, less than eight people, may access the Whiteoak Sink area without a permit throughout the wildflower season. Volunteers will be available on site to provide safe-viewing information and to collect monitoring data.  

The Whiteoak Sink area is primarily accessed from the Schoolhouse Gap Trail between Townsend and Cades Cove. In addition to stewardship of sensitive wildflower populations, resource managers continue to be concerned about critical habitat for bats found at the same location. In 2015, park officials closed the area during the winter months to limit human disturbance to important bat hibernacula and to help hikers avoid interactions with White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) infected bats, which had been documented flying erratically during the day and diving towards people. Unfortunately, recent monitoring has documented a dramatic decline in bat populations throughout the Whiteoak Sink area. For that reason, park officials have determined that the full winter closure is no longer necessary due to the extremely low number of bats in the area. However, access within 25 yards of the Blowhole Cave opening is prohibited from October through May to reduce disturbance to remaining bats. 

Park managers have been monitoring sensitive wildflower species in the Whiteoak Sink area since 2016. During the first year of monitoring, managers documented 62 plants that were damaged by trampling and the creation of 370 feet of new social trails by visitors trying to view or photograph individual plants. Based on this monitoring, park managers implemented several strategies to protect wildflowers during the peak season that draws over 5,000 visitors to the site. A volunteer provides daily information to visitors about how to safely view wildflowers and signage is installed to help remind photographers about the importance of remaining on the trail to reduce soil compaction and trampling. With these efforts, plant trampling has been reduced by 80%, although, social trail creation and soil compaction is still a concern. By managing group size and frequency through this trial permit system, park managers hope to further reduce impacts. 

Source Material – GSMNP

More Hey Smokies Features:

Enjoy a Drive on Scenic Highway 129 near the Great Smoky Mountains and Experience the Tail of the Dragon!
Enjoy a Drive on Scenic Highway 129 near the Great Smoky Mountains and Experience the Tail of the Dragon!...
Scenic Highway 129 starts in languid Chiefland, Florida, a far cry from the blue haze and cooler temperatures of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hund[Read More >>]
The Clingmans Dome Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Clingmans Dome Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park...
…feeling great at CLINGMANS DOME!  Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!...
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon
Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon...
Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon. Most of the time, the full moon isn't completely full. We always see the same side of the moon and part o[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Public Input Requested for Smoky Mountain Proposed Air Tour Management Plan...
Public Input Requested for Smoky Mountain Proposed Air Tour Management Plan. The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Admin[Read More >>]
Cades Cove Handicapped Accessible Trail Open To Public
Cades Cove Handicapped Accessible Trail Open To Public...
New John Oliver cabin trail opens in GSMNP! Cades Cove Handicapped Accessible Trail Open To Public. National Park officials celebrated the [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut...
Love is in the air for Smoky Mountain Elk. Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is on. The call of the wild echoes in the Smokies as Bull Elks seek mates.[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Tomato Pie Recipe...
You will love HeySmokies' delicious tomato pie! Smoky Mountain Tomato Pie recipe is a favorite with the HeySmokies.com culinary crew. This s[Read More >>]
Newfound Gap Road Construction
Newfound Gap Road Construction...
Smoky Mountain Travel Advisory. Great Smoky Mountains National Park will resume daytime traffic closures due to road paving along an 8-mile [Read More >>]
Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville
Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville...
Visit Ijams Nature Center and find out why people love it so much! Ijams is a wild place filled with rocks, rivers, trees, trails, owls and sala[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Cades Cove Closed To Public...
Cades Cove closes for three weeks. Cades Cove Closed To Public. Bears and other wildlife will have an opportunity to breathe a sigh of reli[Read More >>]
The Cades Cove Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Cades Cove Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park...
The 6,800-acre valley comprising Cades Cove, one of the most visited areas of the park, provides a glimpse of a bygone mountain lifestyle. Trave[Read More >>]
Tick Safety Tips!
Tick Safety Tips!...
Tick Safety Tips! Ticks and what you need to know to stay safe! It is that time of year in the Smoky Mountains. Summertime and outdoor activitie[Read More >>]
Five Best Hikes To Mount LeConte
Five Best Hikes To Mount LeConte...
These hikes to Mount LeConte are worth the effort! Five best hikes to Mount LeConte. LeConte Lodge is the only overnight lodging, [Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Laurel Falls Access Fee Proposed...
Laurel Falls Access Fee Proposed. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking public input on the Laurel Falls Trail Congestion Manageme[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain shuttle opportunities for Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Wednesdays...
Smoky Mountain shuttle opportunities for Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Wednesdays. Shuttles begin July 7, 2021 and will run through September 1, [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Bear Attack
Smoky Mountain Bear Attack...
Smoky Mountain bear attack! Smoky Mountain Bear Attack. Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials have closed backcountry campsite 29 in [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon...
Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon is on the rise! Smoky Mountain Strawberry Moon is on the rise! This first full moon of summer 2021[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Hike Naked Day!...
Hike Naked Day! That is right, June 21st is the official international hike naked day! The free and easy event is often a rite of pass[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Cicadas...
Smoky Mountain Cicadas. What's all the buzz about? A rare natural history event is unfolding right now! This month through mid-July, bi[Read More >>]