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Tag Archives: Wildflower National Park

Logging…Loving…Leaving…Life The Story Of Elkmont

There has been much controversy concerning the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the idea of it’s inception.  The area now know as Elkmont within the park is no exception.  The area started as a logging camp around 1901 when Colonel Townsend founded the Little River Railroad and the Little River Lumber Co.

As logging began to make the area more accesible the tourism trade grew. Townsend sold some of the land to outdoor and hunting enthusiast who soon began to build summer cottages. The former logging camps of Elkmont and Tremont were turned into vacation destinations which led to the creation of the Wonderland Hotel and the Appalachian Club.

By the 1920’s many people began to notice how the logging operations had devestated the land and the push for a national park began.  The problem with the national park idea was that the land was owned by private residents and the Little River Lumber Co which did not want to leave.  In 1924 a compromise was worked out with Colonel Townsend to sell 76,500 acres of land but allowed to log it for the next 15 years.  This was only one of many such “deals” that would need working out before the land now knows as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park came to be.

The area now known as Elkmont was purchased in the 1930’s as part of the park deal with the current residents being offered lifetime leases but renewed every 20 years.  The last lease was renewed in 1972  but denied renewal in 1992.  The problem was what to do with the buildings, the park service desired to tear them down and remove them but the past lease holders had other ideas wanting the structures preserved.  Many of the structures were granted a place on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore could not be torn down, more controversy, more compromise.

Elkmont is now an active campground with the abandon residences as a testament to it’s past.  The Wonderland Hotel has already been demolished and 56 other structures are slated for tear down.  Structures in the Daisy Hill section will remain and be restored as a static display to remind visitors of an era and the history that brought about the idea for a national park.  The Appalachian Club has already been restored as has the Spence Cabin and are available for day use for events such as weddings/receptions, family reunions, celebration events and business meetings.

The Smoky Mountain area is rich in history, controversy, bio-diversity and well all things that make up the cylce of life.

 

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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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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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Flower Power

Spring is coming and with the brutally cold temperatures of this winter I know many of us are more than ready for it to be here.

When I think of spring I think flowers, flowers, flowers and The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is full of them.  The park is sometimes referred to as the Wildflower National Park since it is home to over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants.  The earliest to show beginning in February are in a group called ephemeral.  This group of flowers begin to show before the deciduous trees leaf out and include trillium (shown below), violets and lady slipper orchids to name a few.

trillium

Flowering trees soon follow with the flowers of red maples, Fraser magnolias, redbuds and flowering dogwoods.  We can’t forget the lovely blossoms of the flowering shrubs here in the Smoky’s, the brilliant yellow of spicebush and the pink and white of the azaleas and rhododendrons.

Each spring the area hosts a wildflower pilgrimage.  In 2014 the dates for the pilgrimage are April 15-19 and registration is required.  The pilgrimage includes professionally guided walks, seminars and indoor presentations.  If you love flowers or just want to know more about the fauna, ecology and natural history of the area check out the 64th annual wildflower pilgrimage.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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