Officials at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park announced the closure of two campgrounds this week due to increased bear activity in the area. They also posted numerous warning signs throughout the park, reminding visitors to remain aware while traveling through the wilderness. The Bear population has reportedly become increasingly bold when approaching humans, and while there have been no injuries as of yet, park officials are urging caution.
Stretching across parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, the park covers roughly 816 square miles of rugged forest and mountain backcountry. With more than 9 million visitors last year alone, the Great Smokey Mountains is the most visited national park in the entire U.S. system. Many of those visitors come with the hope that they’ll catch a glimpse of one of the park’s many ursine residents.
The two campsites that were closed include the Cosby Knob Shelter, which falls on the Tennessee side of the park, and Campsite 113, which is located in North Carolina. Other sites that are under a bear warning include Derrick Knob Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Campsites 21, 24, 34, 35 and 61. Additionally, further warnings were given for Abrams Falls Trail, Bullhead Trail and Laurel Falls Trail. Officials said that the closures and warnings will remain in effect indefinitely.
Those who plan on visiting the park and staying for an extended period of time are advised to be very careful with their food and garbage. Either can attract a hungry and curious bear looking for its next meal. Backpackers and campers should use a bear bag to hang their food from a tree and use caution when storing anything inside their tents.
With bear populations in the Smokey Mountains continuing to grow, it’s likely the closures of these campsites could become a regular affair. Lets just hope that both the travelers and the bears stay out of each others way as much as possible and no one gets hurts.
[Photo credit: HBarrison via WikiMedia]