The Great Smokey Mountains National Park holds evidence of human activity as long as 11,000 years ago. Rich in sedimentary soils deposited when oceans once covered much of Eastern America, the region was capitalized on by the Cherokee Nation, who enjoyed a settled, agricultural-based life. Europeans first came to the area in 1540 when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led an expedition through Cherokee territory.
After centuries of conflict between the Cherokee and settlers, President Jackson signed the 1830 Removal Act, evicting and relocation all native peoples east of the Mississippi River.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pioneers flocked to the lush valleys, cultivating the fertile land and logging the region extensively. With the introduction of technologies like the railroads, however, logging reached its height in the late 19th century, and by the 1930’s, all but the most inaccessible lands had been harvested.
However, the utter destruction of the native forests took a toll on the people of Tennessee and North Carolina. Inspired by the creation of massive National Parks out west, citizens and governments alike collaborated to raise enough money to buy the lands from timber companies.
On June 15, 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was officially established, and became the 11th park to be established in the National Park Service. AS of today, it’s the 22nd largest park with 521,915 acres within its boundaries.
The Park was later established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.