February 07, 2023
We can imagine you have dates circled on the calendar for the next time you plan to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ! Before you get to those dates, let’s explore some of the most important dates in the history of the national park! These events were crucial moments in Smoky Mountain history that to this day have a lasting and palpable impact. Here are 10 important dates in Great Smoky Mountains National Park history:
The history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park began with a trip to … well … far away from the Smokies! Mrs. Willis P. Davis of Knoxville traveled to the American West where she was impressed by the beauty being preserved in western national parks like Yellowstone. Davis knew that type of protection was needed in the Smoky Mountains!
United States President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill that provided for the eventual creation of both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, setting the ball in motion for the national park we know and love today! This development allowed the Department of Interior to take over administration and protection responsibilities of the 150,000 acres of the national park.
The United States Congress officially establishes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A drop in the value of the dollar and a massive increase in land prices coincided with The Great Depression, complicating the funding process of the national park. Following a $5 million donation from the Rockefeller family and $1.55 million from the federal government, the funds were secured to complete the park.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park 6 years after its establishment! President Roosevelt spoke to more than 10,000 people during a ceremony held at the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap on the state line of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Cades Cove, a fan-favorite place in the park, was designated as a “historical area” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Cades Cove has actually been around since more than 100 years before the park was established! Today, Cades Cove is full of adventure for guests, who can explore historical cabins, churches and a grist mill! Guests enjoy exploring wildlife like white-tailed deer, black bears and turkeys while taking in the unmatched beauty of the area.
As flowers and foliage took over the natural landscape, the first annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage took place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! This non-profit event includes professionally guided walks, exhibits and additional learning opportunities to explore the park’s incredible natural and cultural resources. It became ever apparent the natural beauty of the Smokies that to this day brings in millions of visitors each year!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park received a boost with the creation and completion of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in 1959! This concrete tower gave visitors their first real opportunity to see beautiful scenes of the Smoky Mountains from high above! At an elevation of 6,643 feet, it’s the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Just a year later, Sugarlands Visitors Center was built and dedicated, becoming the first park structure built with the intent of assisting visitors plan their trips! To this day, Sugarlands Visitors Center is a go-to place to receive any help or advice you need inside the national park. In 2013, Sugarlands Visitors Center was renovated to include enhancements to better serve the roughly 1 million visitors each year.
A 1.65-mile stretch of the Foothills Parkway, known as the “Missing Link,” between Walland and Wears Valley opened for guests in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Part of an original 16-mile construction project in 1966, work on this 1.65-mile section suddenly stopped due to unforeseen circumstances. The “Missing Link” opened up for the first time 52 years after construction began! Talk about an annoying delay!
Starting March 1, 2023, parking passes will be required at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Daily tags are sold for $5, weekly tags for $15 and annual passes for $40. Parking passes can be purchased either online or in person at any visitor center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Annual tags must be displayed in the front, lower passenger side window. Daily and weekly tags must be placed front-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.
These dates played a pivotal role in the success and popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The next time you visit, make sure to explore these fun things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!