Great Smoky Mountains National Park Development – Gatlinburg TN

City:
Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Site Type:
Parks and Recreation, Infrastructure and Utilities, Forestry and Agriculture, Archaeology and History, Paths and Trails, Landscaping and Tree Planting, Campgrounds and Cabins, Picnic and Other Facilities, Comfort Stations (Restrooms), Park Roads and Bridges, Dams, Telephone Lines, Roads, Bridges, and Tunnels, Historical Restoration, Fire Prevention Works, Hatcheries, Erosion Control, Tree Planting, Nurseries, Pest Control, Fire Lookouts

New Deal Agencies:
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Work Relief Programs, National Park Service (NPS), Public Works Administration (PWA)

Started:
1933

Completed:
1942

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
Unknown

Site Survival:
Extant

Description

Great Smoky Mountains National Park occupies large areas of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The park’s creation was a decades-long process, including advocacy in the late 19th century; legislation signed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926; and donations and land acquisitions from small donors, the governments of North Carolina and Tennessee, and charitable organizations, such as the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund. Once the park’s existence was firmly established, funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA) and labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) made it both accessible and accommodating to the public.

President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the park on September 2, 1940, and said: “There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the thrush for the happiness of the American people” (American Presidency Project).

During the park’s New Deal years, one of the first orders of business was making the park easier for the public to travel and hike in.  A press release in 1934 noted the use of PWA funds for surveys for new roads, improvements to existing roads, and “trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park [that] will benefit tourists and nature lovers for years to come” (Asheville Citizen-Times, February 18, 1934).  The same press release noted two of PWA’s larger projects:

“Clingman’s Dome, the second highest point east of the Mississippi River with an elevation of 6,642 feet above sea level, will be reached by a PWA road from Newfound Gap. The 8-mile section of this road climbing 1,600 feet along the crest of the Great Smoky range is now under construction. Work also is progressing on a 14-mile section of road from Newfound Gap to Gatlinburg, Tenn., where connection is made with the Knoxville road.”

Meanwhile, the contribution of the CCC to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was nothing short of massive: “as many as 4,000 enrollees were assigned to 22 CCC camps at various times from 1933-1942, building roads, trails, fire towers, and structures. The legacy of the CCC is enormous, and the work of these young men remains clearly evident today” (National Park Service).

The Triple-C’s work at the park included: reforestation and soil conservation; bridge-building; campground and picnic area development; the preservation of historic structures; the restoration of wildlife numbers to normal levels; fish hatcheries; foot and horse trails; removal of dead and diseased trees (especially chestnut trees), and the construction and installation of lookout towers, radio buildings, truck trails, and telephone lines, all to facilitate rapid wildfire response.

A publication of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources reports, “The section of the Appalachian Trail that bisects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a favorite of many hikers, probably few of whom realize how much hard labor CCC enrollees expended to make that pathway the delight it is today” (Jolley, 2007).

For the modern traveler and vacationer, the National Park Service promotes various activities in the park, such as auto tours, bicycling, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing, and proudly states, “World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. Plan your visit today!”

Source notes

Stories,” National Park Service (accessed February 3, 2024).

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC),” National Park Service (accessed February 3, 2024).

A Wondrous Diversity of Life,” National Park Service (accessed February 3, 2024).

Address at Dedication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. September 02, 1940.” American Presidency Project, University of California Santa Barbara (accessed February 3, 2024).

“Smoky Park Is Given Wide Publicity By Public Works Administration,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), February 18, 1934.

“CCC Work In Smoky Mountains,” The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), April 5, 1936, pp. 40-41.

Harley E. Jolley, That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace: The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina, 1933-1942, Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2007, pp. 60-64.

Location Info


107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Coordinates: 35.68903, -83.53749

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