It certainly seems that way on many an early morning. As the sun rises, so does the mist. There are times when the mist shrouds all the mountain tops, and then magically the peaks appear through the mist which hovers in the valley. On an early ride or hike up through the property, one often breaks through the mist into a lovely sunny morning, and as one climbs higher, it almost feels like one is looking out of an airplane window at the clouds below.
The Park is a total of 494,200 acres, home to more than 3,500 plant species, 130 species of trees, plus many endangered animals. including 31 different species of salamander! The elevations in the Park vary from 876 feet to 6,643 feet. This great variety of natural changes in terrain is comparable to the changes one would find traveling from Tennessee to Canada. One finds plants and animals common to the country’s northeast in the higher elevations, with southern species in the balmier lower reaches.
Before the arrival of the European settlers to this region, it was the homeland of the Cherokee Indians. The Frontiers people began to settle the land in the 18th and early 19th century, many of Scottish decent. It was President Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, eventually resulting in the removal of most Cherokee people to Oklahoma. A few Cherokee remained in hiding in the Smoky Mountains, their leader a warrior named Tsali, a tale to be told another day. Descendents of these original warriors now live in the Qualla Boundary, adjoining the south side of the Park
With the arrival of the white settlers logging grew into a major industry. Unfortunately these loggers with their “cut and run style” of logging, were fast destroying the natural beauty of the mountains. This practices was also creating huge run offs of silt, blocking the rivers all the way to the coast. The US National Park Service wanted to create an Eastern park, but were lacking in funds to do so. Congress dedicated the idea of a National Park On May 22, 1926, but it took a $5 million donation from John D Rockefeller Jr. with an additional $2 million from the government to start the ball rolling. Many private citizens, including writer Horace Kephart, a resident of Bryson City, also contributed funds, great energy and dedication to make it happen. The Park then became a recipient of many of the programs during the Great Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, and other federal programs were responsible for the building of the trails, fire watchtowers, and other infrastructure improvements, which we still enjoy.
And so today, we have the joy of living here in Bryson City, on the south (quiet) side of the park, enjoying this incredible diversity of nature. Each season brings a whole new world of things to see and enjoy, views expand or contract, another bloom is spotted on the trail. Come visit one of the most beautiful places on earth.