Animals All Around
A small black bear scampers up a tree and settles on a large branch, gazing at the thick, misty forest surrounding it. The bear lives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles North Carolina and Tennessee. With roughly 1,500 resident black bears, the area has been dubbed by some as “black bear country.”
The range was named for the smoke-like fog that hangs over its forested peaks. In addition to black bears, the region is home to over 60 mammal species, some 200 varieties of birds, and around 80 kinds of reptiles and amphibians. Types of fireflies that time their flashes so they light up in unison also live here.
Creating the park
A large part of the Southeast United States—including the land that’s now Great Smoky Mountains National Park—is the homeland of the Cherokee people. But conflicts with settlers and a fight over resources led the federal government to force most Native Americans in this region onto smaller reservations: Indigenous people walked hundreds of miles west in a journey now known as the Trail of Tears.
The 521,896-acre park was established in 1934 to stop the logging industry from completely clearing the forest of the Great Smoky Mountain range. It worked, and today the park welcomes up to ten million tourists every year.