Natural Features and Ecosystems

Quite possibly the most natural park on the entire East coast, the Great Smoky Mountains bring visitors through gorgeous forests, to the top of scenic mountains, and beautiful, rushing streams. Since settlers first made their way to the Smokies, the surrounding landscape has changed dramatically. The majority of the rocks throughout the park are in the sedimentary family as they were created by soil, gravel, silt and sand deposits. As millions of years passed, the hard layers around the rocks have formed a thickness that has been measured to be 9 miles long in some areas.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the drifting continents eventually joined together in a dramatic creation period. While the continents joined together, an incredible amount of pressure caused the straight rocks to be folded structures. Amazingly, a whole belt that expands 2,000 miles was formed when the two continents collided and created what is now known as the Appalachian Mountains.

Through millions of years of rainfall, high winds and freezing weather, the Smokies have been eroded from its original craggy surface. The evolution of gigantic sheet rocks from the Pleistocene Epoch continued to shape the current formation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Even though glaciers did not make it this far south, they had a strong impact on the surrounding climate that created alpine like conditions on the higher elevation levels.

In the higher region of the Smokies, there is an annual rainfall average of 85”. All of the rain eventually finds its way through more than 2,100 miles of rushing rivers and streams that flow throughout the entire park. Seeing more than 200,00 visitors every years, the park has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country that connect all of the park’s waterways.