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Smoky Mountain Historical Information

Smoky Mountains history has a lot to tell. The Smokies offer activities for visitors of various ages and interests. Recommended activities include camping, hiking, picnicking, sightseeing, fishing, horseback riding, and nature viewing. There are also opportunities for ranger-guided programs.

smoky mountains history

Smoky Mountains History

The origin of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be traced back to 1923 when Mrs. Willis P. Davis of Knoxville, Tennessee traveled to the American West and was amazed by the beauty preserved in the western national parks such as Yellow Stone. Living near the Smoky Mountain foothills, Davis knew that these mountain needed to be preserved as well.

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The movement began slowly because local and national politics served to delay progress. Disputes over whether the land should become a National Forest or a National Park, exactly what land to use, as well as lack of federal funding stood in the way of creating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the suggestion of constructing a better road between Knoxville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina arose, the Park Movement gained more support.

Colonel David Chapman became the spearhead national park supporter, and in 1926 the three-year struggle ended when Congress finally authorized the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park Commissions quickly raised money to purchase 6,600 land tracts through beneficiary donations and Tennessee and North Carolina state funding.

The devalued currency and skyrocketing land prices of the Great Depression posed a problem for the Park Commission; they appealed to Congress for extra funding, but actually received needed support from a $5 million donation from the Rockefeller family. In 1933 the U.S. Government contributed $1.55 million to complete the land acquisition.

smoky mountains history
FDR speaking at Dedication of National Park, Newfound Gap (Sept 2, 1940)

A New National Park

Despite the struggles with money and politics, Congress established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on June 15, 1934, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park six years later on September 2, 1940. Thankfully, the insight of Mrs. Davis and donations from kind philanthropists preserved this land of “smoky” foothills and unique wildlife. Today the GSMNP hosts nearly 12 million visitors annually. This refuge to amazing flora and fauna continues to grow in popularity as an attractive getaway.

Rockefeller Monument

Upon the park's establishment, a monument was erected for John D. Rockefeller near Newfound Gap. This was because he donated an enormous amount of money for the park to be created. The $5 million he pitched in 1926 is worth more than $70 million today.

Rockefeller Monument

Cades Cove History

One of the most popular areas in our national park, Cades Cove holds a lot of history. In the early 1800s it was home to the native American Cherokee tribe, and by the end of the century hundreds had settled there. Many of the original buildings can still be seen in the area today.

Cades Cove

More Smoky Mountains History