Visits to the Smokies Up This Year

For the local economy, the Great Smoky Mountains really are the gift that keeps on giving. And this time of year that’s a really good thing when you’re forecasting the future.

Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently released figures that show that visits to the national park are up by nearly 8 percent over last year for the year to date. And with the holiday season in full swing, that trend is more than likely to continue due to the usual “pop” in visits to the area during the holiday season.

Molly Schroer with the national park said November visits to the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border totaled 657,935 people. That’s an 8.6 percent jump from November 2011 data and a real good sign for December.

October’s final statistics showed numbers which were slightly ahead of October 2011 numbers and year-to-date visits to the Great Smoky Mountains through last month totaled 9,204,736 people. That’s a 7.8 percent rise looking at numbers from January through November 2011.

Obviously, due to the magnificent fall foliage, October is a big month for visits to the park. The revised figure for that month is 1,133,604.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the contiguous United States. The park is home to over 17,000 species of plants and animals and many leading officials within the field of science and nature believe another 30,000 to 80,000 different types of species live in the Smoky Mountain region.

Talking about plants and animals, some 100 species of native trees can be found flourishing in the Smokies, more than in any other North American national park. Almost 95% of the park is forested, and about 25% of that area is old-growth forest-one of the largest blocks of deciduous, old-growth forests remaining in North America. Over 1,500 flowering plant species can be found here as well. In all, over 200 species of birds, 66 types of mammals, 50 native fish species, 39 varieties of reptiles, and 43 species of amphibians can be found living in the park and such things as millipedes and mushrooms reach record diversity here.

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