"Smoke" on the mountains.
Licensed Adobe Stock Photo
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a good place to start Trip 2, which will focus on biodiversity. The Smokies are one of the most biodiverse areas in the eastern U.S. and in the country as a whole. Between the Smokies and the other sites in Trip 2, the goal is to experience something from every major phylum and some things from some of the more obscure phyla. For some groups of organisms, such as salamanders, the park is one of the best places in which to experience them, so they will be focused on in depth well below the level of phylum.
The park is mainly made up of five forest types, with the Oak/Hickory and Oak/Pine types dominating much of the lower areas. Together these forests contain more than 130 species of trees, and 4,000 other plant species. More than 230 species of bird species, 65 mammal species, and many amphibians and crayfish live in the park.
Albright Grove is a good location to see an old growth cove hardwood forest. This type of forest is one of the most biologically diverse outside of the tropics. Albright Grove is in the Northeast part of the park.
"Heath Balds" in the park are dominated by the family Ericaceae (heaths). Plants in this family that may be found there include Catawba Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, Sand Myrtle, Blueberries, Huckleberries, Azaleas and Wintergreen. To see a heath bald, continue hiking up the trail that takes you to Albright Grove to Maddron Bald, or drive up the Newfound Gap Road and take the Alum Cave Trail towards Mt. LeConte.
"Grassy Balds" are treeless areas at the tops of some mountains in the park. An example is Spence Field, near Rockytop. Take the trail starting from the east side of Cades Cove near the campground.
To see the oak/pine forest which grows in drier areas of the park, continue on south from Spence Field on Eagle Creek Trail.
Club Mosses (Lycopodiophyta) are common on the floors of the Spruce/Fir forests.
There are around 2000 known species of Fungi in the park.
The neighboring Tennessee River, which is fed by many of the streams in the park, has the highest diversity of freshwater fishes in the United States. Within the park itself, around 60 species of fishes have been identified, the most of any non-marine national park in the country.
Cades Cove is one of the best places in the park for viewing wildlife. Be sure to check out the nature trail starting near the Cades Cove visitor center. Abrams Creek, which runs through Cades Cove, has a growing population of river otters. Head from Cades Cove towards Abrams Falls.