Stretching over more than 200,000 ha, this exceptionally beautiful park is home to more than 3,500 plant species, including almost as many trees (130 natural species) as in all of Europe. Many endangered animal species are also found there, including what is probably the greatest variety of salamanders in the world. Since the park is relatively untouched, it gives an idea of temperate flora before the influence of humankind.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a major North American refuge of temperate zone flora and fauna that survived the Pleistocene glaciations. The park includes the largest remnant of the diverse Arcto-Tertiary geoflora era left in the world, and provides an indication of the appearance of late Pleistocene flora. It is large enough to allow the continuing biological evolution of this natural system, and its biological diversity exceeds that of other temperate-zone protected areas of comparable size. The park is of exceptional natural beauty with undisturbed, virgin forest including the largest block of virgin red spruce remaining on earth.
Criterion (vii): The site is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams.
Criterion (viii): Great Smoky Mountains National Park is of world importance as the outstanding example of the diverse Arcto-Tertiary geoflora era, providing an indication of what the late Pleistocene flora looked like before recent human impacts.
Criterion (ix): The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest remaining remnants of the diverse Arcto-Tertiary geoflora era in the world. It is large enough to be a significant example of continuing biological evolution of this natural system.
Criterion (x): The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most ecologically rich and diverse temperate zone protected areas in the world. There are over 1300 native vascular plant species, including 105 native tree species, plus nearly 500 species of non-vascular plants – a level of floristic diversity that rivals or exceeds other temperate zone protected areas of similar size. The park is also home to the world’s greatest diversity of salamander species (31) – an important indicator of overall ecosystem health – and is the center of diversity for lungless salamanders, with 24 species.
Knoxville, in Knox County, is the third-largest city in Tennessee. It is the home of the University of Tennessee’s primary campus (UTK) and site of the 1982 World’s Fair. Knoxville sits nestled on the Tennessee River about an hour from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On any evening of the week, throngs of residents and visitors can be seen at the sidewalk cafes, theaters, restaurants and night clubs along Gay Street and Market Square. The University of Tennessee, with its 27,000 students, is within walking distance of the downtown, separated only by the World’s Fair Park. You can still see remnants of the 1982 World’s Fair in the Sunsphere, a rising structure topped with a gold sphere which dots Knoxville’s skyline. Most of the other structures from the Fair were removed to create a large city park, which attracts families, students, and artists on weekends and sunny days. The World’s Fair brought a lot of attention and development to the city, including high-rise office structures, and the four-star Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Marriott hotels [read more].
The city of Asheville is a liberal, artsy community nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina. A popular tourist destination, this “Paris of the South,” has one of the most impressive, comprehensive collections of Art Deco architecture in the United States. In 2011 Asheville was picked as one of the “10 Most Beautiful Places in America” by Good Morning America. Asheville is the county seat of Buncombe County, and is the largest city in Western North Carolina with a population of approximately 93,000 (2019) and a metro population of 425,000 (2018). Asheville was named after the ninth governor of North Carolina, Samuel Ashe. It is the principal city in the four-county Asheville metropolitan area, with a population of about 425,000 in 2010. It has been described variously as the “San Francisco of the East,” “New Age Mecca,” and “Land of the Sky.” It’s a city that Rolling Stone magazine dubbed “America’s New Freak Capital ” [read more].
Atlanta is the vanguard of the New South, with the charm and elegance of the Old. It’s a city that balances southern traditions with sleek modernism, and southern hospitality with three skylines and the world’s busiest airport. It’s a city that has been burnt to the ground and built back up; seen the horrors of war; felt the pain of droughts and floods; and given birth to Martin Luther King, Jr., the greatest figure of the civil rights movement. Atlanta is the capital of the state of Georgia and, according to many, the capital of the entire Southern United States. Sitting on the Piedmont Plateau in Northern Georgia, Atlanta is almost entirely in Fulton County, while a part of the city limits extends into DeKalb County. The city covers 132 sq mi (343 km²), but Metro Atlanta, which includes 28 counties, has an area of 8,376 sq mi (21,693.7 km²) [read more].