One of East Tennessee’s and here in the Smokies great attractions is the chance to see a black bear in the wild. People come from near and far with the hope of seeing one of these bears and other wildlife as this area holds the greatest bear population in the entire state.
Mother & Cub
On top of that viewing them in the wild is free as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has no admission fees. That’s right; you can drive through Cades Cove, the Roaring Fork, all over the park and only have to pay for your fuel. Sadly foolish, uneducated, and uncaring tourists are ruining the chance for you and your family to observe these bears.
A recent report by Knoxville WBIR TV News brought to light that poor behavior by certain tourists is harming these bears leading to their removal or even causing the need for certain bears to be killed. They reported how tourists fed a female black bear and her three cubs in Cades Cove causing them to become “Nuisance Bears”. This forced the park service to capture and relocate the mother bear and her cubs 40 miles from the area. The article goes on to tell of a bear having to be euthanized in 2010 because of it approaching hikers in the Laurel Falls area wanting food.
Full WBIR News Article
The WBIR article also reported on the story in Country Magazine where the lady bragged about approaching an angry mother bear and her cubs in Cades Cove to get that “photographic treasure”. Thankfully enough public backlash caused the magazine to retract the story.
Cub in tree eating berries
The law states you must stay back 50 yards and may not disturb or displace these animals. Visitors can be arrested and fined for violating this law. Bring a zoom lens and stay back. Don’t feed the bears! Keep your distance, stay safe and keep them safe.
Black Bear Safety Tips
Newfound Gap Road (US-441), the main route from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC, has been closed since January due to a land slide on the NC side, near mile marker 22. Park officials have reported that road repairs are on schedule and should be completed by May 15, 2013. Newfound Gap Road is open from Gatlinburg to the Newfound Gap overlook and to Clingmans Dome Road weather permitting. UPDATE: Newfound Gap Road repairs are completed and the road is now open from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC as of 4/15/13.
The following roads are scheduled to open April 12:
Parsons Branch Road
The Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail
Due to federal budget cuts the following campgrounds and picnic areas will be closed in 2013:
Look Rock campground and picnic area
Abrams Creek campground
Balsam Mountain campground and picnic area (includes Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads)
Tow String horse camp (NC)
Current park road and facilities information click here.
Officials of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park announced Wednesday that the road to Clingman’s Dome and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will remain closed.
The road to Clingman’s Dome is now scheduled to be open June 19th. The major setback on the project was the weather. The park recorded over 130 inches of snow this past winter.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Gatlinburg has not set a new opening date. In addition to weather, this project has faced major delays due to the steep, narrow winding roads. Contractors have faced challenges maneuvering heavy equipment on the scenic roadway.
For complete information on park road, trail and campground closures please go to their web site.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park will be closing certain roads this spring for much needed repairs. These repairs will affect some of the parks most popular areas.
The Cades Cove Loop Road near Townsend, is slated for repaving from March 1 through May 21. Due to the fact the road has not been repaved in over thirty years, it will need to be totally closed down as it will require total reconstruction.
Clingmans Dome Road, which normally opens April 1st, will be kept closed until around May 29th. Along with road repairs, new public facilities are being installed at the parking area at Clingmans Dome.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also scheduled to be closed till May 29th. The popular 5 mile scenic loop is in Gatlinburg.
Weather conditions will play an important factor in getting these three projects completed on time. This winter and last fall have been extremely wet causing rock slides along certain roads and making for wet working conditions. We will report any announced delays in scheduled opening dates here on our blog and also on our Twitter page.
The Clingmans Dome Road will close Dec. 1 for the season as the park begins operating under its winter schedule. When the road reopens in spring, visitors will find the road repaved and new restrooms.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is also scheduled to close in December for repaving; the exact date has not been announced.
For further road closures in the National Park, you may visit their web site.
With the recent rains and warmer humid weather both the Mountain Laurel and Flame Azalea are in robust bloom in the Smokies. They can be seen both in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and along back country roads through out the area.
The Mountain Laurel has either white or pink bell shape blossoms and is often found in rocky areas. The Flame Azalea, displaying bright orange flowers, happens to be one the very important parent plants to many of today’s hybrid varieties.
Mountain Laurel along Sevier County back road
Pink Mountain Laurel along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail
White Mountain Laurel Blossoms
Flame Azalea along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail
Many visitors to the Smoky Mountains have already done their research when planning sightseeing trips. They think about Cades Cove or driving up to Clingman’s Dome and they forget about one of the closest to Sevierville, the Roaring Fork Motor Trail & Historic District in Gatlinburg.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail begins just past the Rainbow Falls Trailhead on Cherokee Orchard Road. This one-way road will slowly climb Piney Mountain topping out on an overlook of the mountain’s northern slopes at about 3000 feet elevation.
As you begin the decent of the mountain you will pass the Trillium Gap Trailhead before entering the Roaring Fork Hollow. After crossing the bridge over the Roaring Fork (a stream that’s source originates from the northern slopes of Mount LeConte) you will enter the Historic District featuring the Jim Bales Place, older brother’s Ephraim Bales Place, and The Alfred Reagan Farm.
These historic homesteads feature cabin, barns, corn cribs and a “tub” grist mill, many of them being the original buildings. Guest can enjoy a pleasant morning or an afternoon observing these historic buildings of days gone by.
You may reach the Roaring Fork Motor Trail by turning east at either traffic lights 6 or 8 on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg and you will exit at traffic light 1A on the East Parkway. Map of the city of Gatlinburg
Jim Bales Place