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Top 6 Facts About the Great Smoky Mountains You May Not Know

smoky mountains
January 9, 2020

The Great Smoky Mountains are a popular place to visit throughout the year. But how much do you know about the area? We want to share some interesting facts about the Smokies with you! Check out these top 6 facts about the Great Smoky Mountains you may not know:

1. The First Settler was a Woman

ogle in the great smoky mountains

Williams Ogle is credited as being the first person to build a home in the area, but it was actually his wife who was the first settler! He spent time building their home, and right before they moved in, Ogle passed away. Martha Ogle moved into the home with her children, making her the first person to live in the Great Smoky Mountains !

2. It’s the Unofficial Salamander Capital

Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains are the unofficial Salamander Capital? There are more than 30 species of salamanders living in the national park. You’ll find them in cool, moist areas. You’ll definitely see them when you hike to waterfalls, and you might see them in the creeks!

3. It’s the Only Park Created Using Private Funds

Trail going through wildflowers in the smoky mountains

One of the coolest facts about the Great Smoky Mountains is it’s the only national park in the United States that was created using private funds. The government wanted to establish a national park in the east, but it didn’t have enough money to purchase land. Local landowners and John D. Rockefeller donated money, with Rockefeller donating about $5 million dollars, creating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

4. Flowers Helped the Area Become the Park

A fact about the Great Smoky Mountains you may not know is the role flowers played in the park’s creation. When the government was looking for an area to create a national park in the east, members of a national committee were sent to the Smoky Mountains to scope out the area. Harlan P. Kelsey, a botanist, was with the members when they hiked to Gregory Bald . He saw the flame azalea shrubs, which were some of his favorites, and noted that these were at their maximum development, and this fact alone was enough of a reason why the area should be a national park.

5. There’s No Entrance Fee

newfound gap road in the smoky mountains

Unlike many national parks in the western United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t have an entrance fee. Before the park was established, North Carolina and Tennessee jointly built Newfound Gap Road to connect Gatlinburg to Cherokee. The government approached the states, and North Carolina immediately deeded the road over, while Tennessee deeded it over with an eternal land deed restriction: no toll or license fee will ever be created.

6. There are Several Operating Grist Mills

In the pioneer days, people relied heavily on grist mills to grind cornmeal and flour. There were several throughout the park. Now, there are a few left, but some of them are still in operating order! A popular destination in Pigeon Forge is The Old Mill , an operating grist mill where you can watch the wheel spin on the creek and purchase meal ground by the grist mill! Another is in Cades Cove , named the John P. Cable grist mill.

These are neat facts about the Great Smoky Mountains! We know you love this area, and what better way to experience it than camping outdoors? Learn more about our campground and then book your next trip!