Tourism Is Up And Environmental Recovery Brings A Bounty Of New Plants & Trees
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Travel Blogger
The bottoms of some trees are still charred and you can see a line of black at the base of a hill on the loop road.
One year after fires roared through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and to the popular tourist town of Gatlinburg, some scars remain evident on the landscape. But nature is also showing her remarkable recovery abilities as you really have to be looking for evidence of the fires to find it. There is also a substantial amount of new growth in burnt areas.
“Where the fire killed the mature trees, thousands and thousands of seedlings are coming on strong,” Park fire ecologist Rob Klein told Smokies Guide, the Great Smokeys newspaper. “Next year (2018) will be a lot of dense vegetation. Everything from mushrooms to blueberries is getting a boost.”
Smoky Mountain Fires In Photos: December 2016 & December 2017
Invasive Plants Flourishing
Fire also has a way of making invasive plants flourish and the park rangers are busy removing princess tee seedlings and trying to control kudzu and oriental bittersweet, among other species.
Chimney Tops Hiking Trail Open
The fire started – by a pair of teenage boys playing around with matches – in an area known as Chimney Tops. The trail there is now open, as well as the ones at Road Prong and Rough Fork. The top .25-mile section of the Chimney Tops trail to the pinnacles remains closed. The only full trails that are still closed are Bull Head and Sugarland Mountain. Both are expected to reopen sometime in 2018.
Gatlinburg & Cades Cover Thriving With Tourists
When the fires hit, there was huge concern among locals and business owners that tourism would take a huge it. Instead, just the opposite has happened. There was so much media coverage of the fires that people actually came to see the damage. So Gatlinburg is thriving.
And, if a recent trip to Cades Cove is any indication, it is, too, A winter day’s drive around the scenic and historic 11-mile loop was often so backed up with vehicles it resembled Pigeon Forge traffic.
Except in Cade’s Cove you are not in a hurry, of course.