Ugh. The situation in the Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge area on this October 1, 2013 morning is that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed. Highways: US 441 remains open. The Spur and Gatlinburg bypass remain open. The Park itself is still accessible to drive through.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is an “open” park – there are no entrances as such. For people in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area, it feels like the park is all around us – none of that will change.
But what’s closing are all the facilities and infrastructure of the park. This means officials have to close gates and trails, check parking lots, picnic areas, campsites and streams, and make sure everyone is out of the park facilities. This includes three visitor centers inside the park, although others outside remain unaffected.
The websites for all national parks across the country are also shut down today – so details are in short supply. But here are the Department of the Interior contingency plans.
For the sightseer in the car – the favorite way to visit GSMNP – the logistics of bathroom breaks now become something to plan for. For most people, their visits to this area will be only mildly inconvenienced. But for the hikers, campers, and lovers of the wild – especially as the season turns into spectacular outdoors weather – the Federal government has a lot to answer for today.
The Park infrastructure will stay closed during the government shutdown. More updates as the situation develops.
UPDATE 10/2/2013 – All of the roads inside the Park are closed, except for Newfound Gap Road (US441), the Spur and the Gatlinburg Bypass.