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Behold the Bugler

Fall is quickly approaching in the Great Smoky Mt National Park and that means lots of wonderful things!  One of the first things that comes to mind is the changing of the leaves which brings out brilliant colors and paints the land in rich hues of yellows, golds, oranges and reds.  Another thing that comes with fall is the mating season of the elk, also known as the rut (September into early Oct).

The elk were reintroduced in 2001-2002 after a 200 year absence in the Smokies.  They are spectacular creatures to behold.  The best places to do so in the park are in the Cataloochee Valley or near the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.  The best times for viewing are early morning or early evening just before sunset.  Fields may be closed during the rut to minimize conflicts between elk and humans.

elk

During the rut the adult male elk (bulls) use a combination of bugling and aggressive behavior in an attempt to dominant over other males.  They use their huge antlers to spar with other males in a show of strength.  The bugling is a very distinct sound beginning as a deep resonant then increases to a high pitched squeal and ends in a succession of grunts.  These bugles can be heard a mile or more away!

To view a video of the elk click here

Seasons of the elk:  Spring (March) the male shed their antlers which are calcium rich and quickly eaten by other rodents and other animals.  It is illegal to remove the antlers from the park so look don’t touch!

Summer is birthing time with most calves being born in June.  The majestic creatures like to roll and wallow in the mud to cover themselves as a deterant to pesty insects.  By August the antlers are full grown and have lost their “velvet”.

Fall is the rut as discussed above and the display of aggresive, dominant behaviour and bugling begins.

Winter, the elk wear a two layer coat in colder months with the longer hairs repelling water and the fuzzy undercoat keeps them warm.

It really is quite a treat to view the elk in their natural habitat.  Be sure to follow all park rules regarding wildlife viewing for your saftey and that of the animals.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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Water, Water Everywhere!

What do you think of when you hear Smoky Mountain National Park, well for one thing you probably think of mountain scenery, hiking, and wildlife viewing and those are all great things to not only think about but do.  Another great resource in and around the area is water and all it offers.

Many of the most popular hikes in the park include a waterfall along the way.  Many of the roads in the park follow the river and there are some beautiful picnic spots along the rivers edge. Another great spot to view the strong rushing water is The Sinks a spot on the Little Pigeon River approximately 12 miles from  Sugarlands Visitor Center.  The views here are of cascades and the currents are very strong. There is a pull off here with a few parking spaces but if the area is full you can still get a good view by driving slowly as you cross over the bridge.

For those looking for swimming holes there are several of those in the park too. Here’s a list:

  • Little River – Townsend, TN. …
  • Deep Creek – Bryson City, NC. …
  • Green Brier – Gatlinburg, TN. …
  • Cherokee Rapids – Cherokee, NC. …
  • Little Pigeon River Banks – Sevierville, TN. …
  • Midnight Hole – NC/TN. …
  • Abrams Falls – Cades Cove, TN. …
  • Metcalf Bottoms – Gatlinburg, TN.

Another great form of recreation on the river is fishing and can be done year round in the park.  Licenses are required and some streams may be off limits so be sure to check with the park system for all rules/regulations regarding fishing in the park.

Not an angler, no worries how about floating away the day on a tube.  Several companies in the area for tube rentals.  Another way to float/ride the river white water rafting of course, check out the different package deals and different trips some include the fast rapids others a more leisurely float down the river.

lake

If you want to spend the day on a lovely lake it is only a short drive from Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge to Dandridge TN and beautiful Douglas Lake.  There you can rent boats of all types, jet skis, sea doos, and waverunners too.  Take a look at our other article Boat Loads of Fun for more area rental companies.

Looking for a great water park, try Dollywood’s Splash Country with 35 acres of waterslides, attractions, pools and play areas.

Another way to cool off, take a wet roll down the hill at The Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge.

So rather you desire to get in the water, on the water or just have a great view of the water you will find it all right here in the Smoky Mountains!

Water anyone?

 

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Gobble Up The Sights of Spring

It’s courtship time for the Toms from March to May. So with the coming of spring comes the strutting and gobbling of male turkeys.  It is said the gobbles of Toms can be heard up to a mile away. Often the Toms will display right in the roadway and have no interest in anything but strutting their stuff for the ladies.  Please use caution when driving the roads, be on the lookout for all wildlife and prepare to give them the right away.  Be especially careful on blind curves and be aware other visitors may be stopped for wildlife who will often be found either in the roadway or very close to the edges.

turkey

 
 

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The Lost Cove of Cataloochee

Tucked in the remote southeastern corner of the Smokies is is a place of rare and special beauty, what some call the lost cove of Cataloochee.cataloochee

I think of it as the almost forgotten side of the Smokies.  Forgotten may not be entirely true but for sure it is less traveled and less well known than many other areas of the Great Smoky Mt National Park (which means less crowded too!)  It is a bit harder to get to but well worth the effort.  Located approximately 65 miles from Gatlinburg and 39 miles from Pigeon Forge, the easiest and most scenic route is I-40 to Exit 20 (US 276). then look for Cove Creek Rd about .2 of a mile on the right.  The road is paved for 4 miles, gravel for 3 then back to pavement.  The gravel section is narrow with some sharp curves and  can be rough at times.

While Cataloochee seems to be a lost or forgotten area now, not long ago that wasn’t so. It was once the largest settlement in the Smokies with more than 1200 people.  It was an early thoroughfare for travelers through the mountains, used by animals, Indians and European settlers long before automobiles and interstate highways.

People like Mark Hannah, one of the first rangers in the park were instrumental in the preservation of the history and heritage of the people of the Great Smokies. Mr Hannah himself was a descendant of early settlers who came to the valley to farm.  He collected first hand accounts of the mountain people, which are preserved in the park’s archives.  Visit the Palmer House (which housed one of the post offices in the area), the areas visitor center and hear some of the recorded stories of those early settlers.

Besides Palmer House there are other historic buildings you will want to visit like Palmer Chapel,              Beech Grove School, the Woody House, and the Caldwell House.  To see a video of the area see an interview with Hattie Caldwell whose great grandfather was first into the area in 1834 click on this youtube link.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lbGd8JYl84

Another unique feature of this area are the elk, spectacular creatures that roam free here after being reintroduced to the park in 2001/2002.  Other wildlife commonly seen in the area are black bears, wild turkey, deer and red wolves.  Best viewing times are early morning and early evening.  Be sure to view all wildlife from a distance with binoculars or zoom lenses.

Out of 200 buildings near the turn of the 20th century only a handful remain to give us a glimpse of life as the settlers knew it.  Forest has reclaimed much of the farmland and orchards, the deer and elk graze next to the ruins of a stone chimney in the lost cove of Cataloochee and all is well.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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Elk in the Smoky Mountains

Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America dropped to the point that hunting groups and other conservation organizations became concerned the species was headed for extinction.

A primary mission of the National Park Service is to preserve native plants and animals on lands it manages. In cases where native species have been eliminated from park lands, the National Park Service may choose to reintroduce them. Reintroduction of elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 2001 when 25 elk were brought from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. In 2002, the park imported another 27 animals.

Viewing Elk

The best times to view elk are usually early morning and late evening. Elk may also be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms. Enjoy elk at a distance, using binoculars or a spotting scope for close-up views. Approaching wildlife too closely causes them to expend crucial energy unnecessarily and can result in real harm. If you approach an animal so closely that it stops feeding, changes direction of travel, or otherwise alters its behavior, you are too close!  The park has strict regulations against approaching wildlife or causing them any distress, fines and even arrest could result.  Remember these are wild creatures and can prove to be very dangerous epecially if they are protecting young, if they are spooked or provoked.

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Most of the elk are located in the Cataloochee area in the southeastern section of the park. The easiest way to reach Cataloochee is from Interstate highway I-40. Exit I-40 at North Carolina exit #20. After 0.2 mile, turn right onto Cove Creek Road and follow signs 11 miles into Cataloochee valley. Allow at least 45 minutes to reach the valley once you exit I-40.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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