Great Smoky Mountains National Park - History

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A Little History: Or How the Smoky Mountains
Became a National Park

Photographs courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service

From its inception in 1923, the idea for creating a national park of the Smoky Mountains area was fraught with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Financial, cultural and political issues were overcome to create what is today the most visited national park in our American Park system. The following is a brief synopsis of how the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came about and who the dedicated and visionary individuals were that stuck with the effort for 17 years until the Park's dedication in 1940.

The idea began simply enough....

The original idea for a Smokies national park came from a wealthy and influential family in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Willis P. Davis (see below) , after returning from a visit to western national parks, began asking, "why can't we have a national park in the Smokies?" From this beginning, other influential citizens of Knoxville began to echo the sentiment. Politicians, businessmen, naturalists, and others began to join the movement for their own personal reasons.

Sometimes a movement gains momentum due to its own sheer power-it's simply a good idea. Other movements succeed because of strong-willed, influential, wealthy individuals with a vision. The movement to create a national park in the Smoky Mountains was fortunate to have both elements. But this was not to say that things went quickly or easily-quite the contrary.

Mr Willis P. Davis Mrs Davis

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