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History of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and is the most visited national park in the United States with more than 11 million visitors each year. The Park encompasses 521,000 acres and the mountains are the highest in the Appalachian Mountain Range.

The first documented inhabitants of the area encompassed by the park were the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee Indians were farmers and hunters. They had a fairly sophisticated lifestyle and most could read and write the Cherokee language, developed by Sequoia. They lived primarily in log cabin type buildings made of logs and mud. In 1830, the majority of the Cherokee were forced to leave their ancestral homes, complete a forced march and relocate to Oklahoma. Later, some of them returned and rejoined those who had stayed in the forests. Today, this Eastern Band of the Cherokee have a reservation on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was the Cherokee people who called this land the “Place of the Blue Smoke” or “Shaconage” for the beautiful bluish haze that rises in the Smoky Mountains.

Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, the logging industry developed in the Smokies and by the mid 1930s almost 65% of the forest had been cut. Railroads and farms grew to support the loggers.

In 1934, with the help of many people and particularly, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the land was purchased and given to the Federal Government. On September 2, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Park to the American people.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to the world’s most diversified collection of plants, animals, birds and other living creatures. There are more species of plants than any other area in North America! Perhaps the most famous “critter” in the Park is the black bears. Although hunting is not allowed in the Park, bird watching and fishing are permitted year round.

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