On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service – a service that has played an integral role in this country’s past, present, and future – will turn 100 years old! In celebration, the National Park Service will host a centennial celebration with exciting events and announcements throughout the year. You’re encouraged to find your park – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you’re here in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge! – and enjoy the fun and beauty of national parks.
What’s happening now?
National parks are a huge part of this country. They conserve beautiful lands, bring families together, and provide people with opportunities to get outside and enjoy the natural wonders of this world. It’s only fitting that the National Park Service offers plenty of ways for people to celebrate its 100th birthday! One way to commemorate the centennial is by buying the 16 new postage stamps from the U.S. Postal Service that will feature national parks. These Forever stamps, unveiled in April 2016, beautifully depict some of our nation’s most beloved destinations. So far, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Park Service (NPS) have unveiled stamps for: Grand Canyon National Park, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Everglades National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bandelier National Monument, Assateague Island National Seashore, Arches National Park, and Acadia National Park.
The centennial also brings a beautiful and exciting new film, National Parks Adventure, to IMAX! Along with stunning images and videos of some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S., National Parks Adventure also explains the important of the creation and preservation of national parks.
If you happen to be traveling to Washing D.C. this summer or fall, you can view some beautiful artwork at the “Flora of the National Parks” exhibit at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. The show is from February 18 – October 2, 2016, and will feature the artwork of almost 80 artists from around the United States. The art will feature familiar and rare plants found in North America’s national parks, including Manassas National Battlefield Park, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to name a few. The U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day and is free!
What would a centennial celebration of the National Park Service be without opportunities to spend time in the great outdoors? Programs this year will focus on getting people outside to take in the gorgeous views and get healthy. Starting this year, the Every Kid in Park program will give 4th graders and their families FREE admission to all federal lands and waters, including any national park in the U.S.! And because there are so many places to visit, no matter what part of the United States you live in, there is a site included on the pass within 2 hours of you!
If you’re not a kid or a parent of a 4th grader, you can still get out and enjoy the country’s natural wonders. Right here in the Smokies, take part in the Hike 100 Smokies Challenge, where you’ll be challenged to hike 100 miles within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during 2016! You can do it on your own or you can tag along with Superintendent Cash for an experienced guide through the Smokies. You can hike different trials each time or hike the same trail over and over again – everything adds up to the 100 miles!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, just down the road from Pigeon Forge, also offers outdoor fun year-round. You can go hiking, but you can also ride bikes, have a picnic, go on a horseback ride, fish, or take a scenic drive to see the flora, fauna, and historic buildings in the area.
History of National Parks
Over the years, millions of people have played an important role in the part of national parks. From the parks’ founders to past workers and today’s visitors, the national parks – including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – have been preserved and made popular by many. But there are a few important people whose contributions made the creation of national parks possible. John Muir, poet, conservationist, and naturalist, is considered the “Father of the National Park Service.” He, alongside President Theodore Roosevelt, had a vision for America’s national parks that helped form what we see across the nation today.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established on June 15, 1934 and dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. It’s one of the largest protected areas in the eastern part of the U.S., covering more than 500,000 acres across North Carolina and Tennessee. It was made possible by both private and public funds, including $5 million from John D. Rockefeller and $2 million from the U.S. government. Over the years, residents of North Carolina and Tennessee helped gather the rest of the land for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a true group effort.
Beautiful Mountain Cabins
While you’re in the Smokies enjoying the centennial celebration, be sure you have a comfortable place to stay. We have some beautiful Pigeon Forge cabins that will keep you near the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can even search by amenity and choose mountain views to continue the outdoor fun back at the cabin!