When all seems calm and quiet in the park during road closures, there is actually a flurry of activity going on. Sidewalks into visitor centers are cleared, parking lots are plowed, and restrooms are maintained for cleanliness. These are obvious to visitors, but a dedicated troop of maintenance staff and rangers often go unseen. They spend their time cutting trees, plowing roads, and spreading sand and cinder for traction. Ensuring safe passage through the park tempered with knowing visitors desire to see nature’s wonders is a fine and delicate balance always in the forefront as the road is being monitored for opening. Watch @smokiesroadsnps
on Twitter, visit www.nps.gov/grsm or call 865-436-1200 to discover your opportunity to drive through Newfound Gap Road when it opens.
Photos: René Williams & Andrea Walton
Photo descriptions: Oconaluftee Visitor Center surrounded by snow; Maintenance staff cleaning a snow covered sidewalk with a tractor; View of snow covered trees from Newfound Gap; Maintenance staff clearing Newfound Gap Parking lot with a plow truck; Snow covered parking lot at Newfound Gap
Enjoy this view from the Newfound Gap webcam! The park received over 13 inches of snow at Purchase Knob and the higher elevations in NC, ~10 inches at Newfound Gap, ~8 inches at Mt. Le Conte, and ~3 inches at Oconaluftee.
You can view the webcam and check real-time temperature and precipitation data at https://www.air-resource.net/grsmnfgap/. Choose the archive button to look at images throughout the day or from days past. Thanks to the Friends of the Smokies for their support in funding this new camera and weather station!
Temperatures are starting to drop as winter comes along. Whether you are hiking a trail or walking around the visitor center, make sure to check the weather and dress warmly when visiting the park, definitely if it is going to snow. Last year, we had an average snowfall of 4-6 inches in the lower elevations and 69 inches at Newfound Gap. Picture by Andrea Walton
Image Description: Park Headquarters after a snowfall last year
"What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." -John Steinbeck
What's your favorite thing about the park this time of year as the chill of winter begins to set in?
Photo: Sunset view from Foothills Parkway by Kristina Plaas (Photo description: Orange sunset sky with dark blue mountains in background and trees in foreground)
Job opportunity alert!
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans over 500,000 acres of steep, rugged mountainous terrain. World renowned for its abundant ecological diversity and preserved remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, the Smokies also contains one of the largest trail networks in the National Park System at nearly 850 miles! We are looking for highly motivated individuals interested in helping to maintain and preserve these iconic trails.
These vacancy announcements will come available on USAJobs.gov on Monday, December 10th and will close on Monday, December 24th or whenever 150 applications have been received. To be eligible, you must apply through USAJobs.gov during this specified period. Build your resume in USAJobs.gov now so that you're ready when the announcement opens!
Photos by Bob Carr. (Image descriptions: A dirt trail winds through green grass at Spence Field on a summer day; trees cast shadows on the trail. In the second photo, frost covers trees along a narrow, rocky trail at Spence Field on a winter day.)
Cold temperatures have ushered in hoar frost, formed by ice crystals that deposit on branches, leaves, and other structures. This is similar to how dew forms in warm temperatures. The high humidity of the Smokies allows for these beautiful formations in the late fall and winter.
Photo Descriptions: A) View of hoar frost from a distance clinging to shrubs and trees on the mountainside. B) Close up of hoar frost on a birch tree branch with immature male flowers. Taken on 12/4/18 by Jessie Snow.
It’s that time of year! Winter facility and road closures are in full effect here in the park. When planning a trip, be sure to visit our website or read a copy of our official newspaper, Smokies Guide. Both sources can provide you with what will be closed for the winter during your visit so you can make the most of your time here.
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/seasonalfacilities.htm
Online Smokies Guide: https://issuu.com/greatsmokymountainsassociation/docs/sg_winter2018.2/1?ff&e=8396499/66162640
For temporary road closures due to weather or emergencies, visit:
Photo: Chalice Keith
Photo Description: A stack of Smokies Guide newspapers on a wood surface.
The National Park Service kicked off the holiday season with the 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting last week at President's Park (White House)! While we couldn't be there, the students at Fairview Elementary School sent a small piece of Great Smoky Mountains National Park instead. See it below or in President's Park in DC all December long!
Last but definitely not least, our final Bird of the Month for the Year of the Bird is the magnificent pileated woodpecker. At an average adult length of 16 ½ inches, the pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in the park and has a size similar to that of a crow. Listen for their loud drumming and look for their bright red crest. pileated woodpeckers can be found in many places throughout the Smokies, though they are less common in the high elevation spruce-fir forests. And, before we round out our final Bird of the Month post, we’ll leave you with a fun fact: did you know that the pileated woodpecker is the real-life version of Woody Woodpecker?
#BirdOfTheMonth #YearOfTheBird #BirdYourWorld
As temperatures drop in the Smokies, keep your eye out for Rhododendron. This plant is like a natural thermometer with leaves that droop when temperatures drop below freezing. On your next hike, remember to look for the Rhododendron droop to know if you'll need that extra scarf!
Photo Description: Rosebay rhododendron with large green leaves dropping behind Sugarlands Visitor Center. Taken by Jessie Snow.
Along with cold temperatures, last night's weather also brought snow in high elevations! Enjoy these photos taken this morning by a ranger along Newfound Gap Road. ❄️❄️❄️ Remember, you can find up-to-date road closure information year-round on Twitter at SmokiesRoadsNPS. No Twitter account is needed to view this page for information. ❄️❄️❄️Image descriptions can be found in alt text.
There is cold and then there is COLD! 🌬There is a wind chill advisory in effect that projects it will feel like -10 in the higher elevations tonight, and the forecast calls for single digits tomorrow night. Temperatures this cold are dangerous and extreme caution is advised. While we do not recommend backcountry travel in these conditions, if you choose to venture out, please do so only if you have appropriate gear. Be sure to take it slow, use traction devices like micro-spikes and hiking poles, pay special attention to your footing as many trails, bridges, and rocks may be ice covered, and avoid the added risk of crossing water. All of these things are good to keep in mind throughout the season, even in more moderate winter conditions.
NPS Photo; Photo description: Woman bundled up in black hiking pants and gray coat stands with trekking poles in front of evergreen trees