How did the Great Smoky Mountains get their name?

View of mountains from Cades Cove
View of mountains from Cades Cove | Source

The Smokies

The Smoky Mountains, or the Smokies, as they are commonly known, is a sub-range of the Appalachian mountains that rise along the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. They get their name from the thick fog that hangs over the mountains, in the mornings, and after it rains.

I've been to the Smokies many times and to me there is nothing more beautiful than the mountains in the early morning. From a distance the fog gives the mountains a blue-grey tint that indeed looks like smoke. An early morning horseback ride or hike is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of a Smoky Mountain morning up close.

Map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

How many states can you see from Clingman's Dome?

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National park is at Clingman's Dome, at an elevation of 6,643 ft. Visitors can drive to the summit, then hike up a half mile long paved trail to the 54-foot observation tower. The climb is extremely steep but it is well worth the hike. The observation tower gives visitors a 360 degree view of the mountains. On a clear day you can see 100 miles and seven states.

The view from Clingman's Dome
The view from Clingman's Dome | Source

Interesting facts about the Smoky Mountains

  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and receives nine million visitors each year.
  • The Smoky Mountains are home to the densest black bear population in the Eastern U.S. and the most diverse salamander population.
  • Other mammals in the Smokies include the white-tailed deer, bobcat, coyote, red and grey fox, and European wild boar.
  • The Smoky Mountains are part of an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The U.S. National Park Services maintain 78 structures throughout the park. Structures at Cades Cove, Roaring Fork, the Noah Ogle Place, and Elkmont are part of U.S. Registered Historic Districts.
  • The sources of several rivers are located in the Smokies, including the Little Pigeon River, the Oconaluftee River, and Little River.
  • The range's 1,600 species of flowering plants include over 100 species of native trees and 100 species of native shrubs. The Great Smokies are also home to over 450 species of non-vascular plants, and 2,000 species of fungi.
  • Over 130 species of trees are found among the canopies of the cove hardwood forests in the Smokies. The cove hardwood forests are among the most diverse ecosysems in the U.S.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains are home to 66 species of mammals, over 240 species of birds, 43 species of amphibians, 60 species of fish, and 40 species of reptiles.
  • The Smokies are home to over two dozen species of rodents, including the endangered northern flying squirrel, and 10 species of bats, including the endangered Indiana bat.
  • The National Park Service has successfully reintroduced river otters and elk into the Great Smokies.
  • Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles have been spotted at all elevations in the park.
  • Two venomous snakes are found in the Smokies - Timber rattlesnakes are found at all elevations in the range, and the copperhead is typically found at lower elevations.
  • Air pollution is believed to be killing off trees in the higher elevations.
  • Tourism is key to the area's economy, particularly in cities like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina
  • Common activities for visitors of the area include hiking, camping, fishing, rafting and tubing, horseback riding, and skiing at certain times of the year.

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