Great Smoky Mountains National Park Closes Campgrounds and Roads Due to High Winds and Fire Danger
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is taking proactive measures to ensure visitor safety as high winds and dangerous fire conditions are expected. In response to the forecasted weather conditions for Monday, Nov. 20, park officials have announced the closure of park campgrounds and most park roads.
Effective immediately, Elkmont and Cades Cove campgrounds have been closed, and park rangers will be notifying campers already in the area about the closure. Additionally, park rangers will begin closing roads by early afternoon and are urging visitors currently in the park to leave as soon as possible.
Newfound Gap, which runs from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Smokemont Campground, will be closed around 1 p.m. on Monday. Other roads in the park are already closed or will be closing later in the afternoon. It is important for visitors to be aware of the road closures and plan their travels accordingly.
The decision to close the campgrounds and roads is influenced by a red flag warning in effect for the Smokies. This warning indicates a combination of warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds, which greatly increase the risk of fire danger. As the winds are expected to grow stronger throughout Monday afternoon and overnight, with sustained winds at 40 mph and hurricane-force gusts, safety is the park’s utmost priority.
Superintendent Cassius Cash emphasized that employee and visitor safety is their primary concern, stating, We understand these closures are an inconvenience, but we are trying to eliminate as much risk as possible during this dangerous weather event.
Moreover, a burn ban is currently in place throughout the park, which prohibits all campfires and charcoal use until further notice. Visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution, check the park website for alerts, and heed warnings from the National Weather Service and local emergency managers when making any travel plans.
Hikers are specifically advised to avoid hiking during the high wind warning to ensure their safety. The closure of campgrounds, facilities, and roads will remain in effect until the high wind and red flag warnings have expired, and park rangers have had the opportunity to assess the conditions of roads and facilities. An update on the status of campgrounds and roads will be issued by the National Park Service on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
The closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s campgrounds and roads comes amidst ongoing drought conditions in much of Western North Carolina. Numerous wildfires have already ravaged thousands of acres since October, leading to the destruction of structures. Presently, the Black Bear Fire in Haywood County has burned 1,740 acres, with 42% containment.
The severity of the drought, combined with the high winds and increased fire danger, has prompted a state-issued burn ban for 30 counties in Western North Carolina. This ban prohibits all open burning and cancels all burning permits, further emphasizing the need for caution and vigilance to prevent any potential wildfires.
In light of these circumstances, visitors must adhere to the park’s regulations and stay informed about updated alerts and warnings. By doing so, both employees and visitors can contribute to maintaining a safe environment within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.