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Park Roads Suffer Flood Damage
Great Smoky Mountains National Park suffered significant damage to park roads and trails following a flood event last week resulting in the temporary closure of sections of gravel roads within several popular areas. Closed areas include Greenbrier Road past the Greenbrier Ranger Station, Cataloochee Road past the Palmer Chapel, and Parson’s Branch Road.
During the rain event on January 30th, the Park received over 4 inches of rain in 24 hours resulting in flooding of streams throughout the park which were already swollen from higher than normal precipitation throughout January. Average rainfall during January across the Park averages 5-7 inches of rain, but the Park received 14-17 inches of rain this January.
The gravel roads in Greenbrier, Cataloochee, and Parson’s Branch were washed out exposing underlying rock and culverts. Park crews are assessing the damage and estimate that repairs will be completed by the end of March. In addition to replacing culverts, roads will need to be graveled and re-graded.
High waters also destroyed the pedestrian bridge across Walker Camp Prong along the popular Chimney Tops Trail. The 70-foot long pedestrian bridge, originally built in the late 1950s, will have to be entirely replaced to allow trail access. Trail crews are assessing bridge replacement options and do not yet have a date estimate for completion.
For more information about road closures, please visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm and or call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.
Park Service Offers a Reward for Information on Vandalism
On January 31st, Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors reported the defacement of natural stone features and masonry stone walls at the Sinks. The Sinks is a popular roadside waterfall located on Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye. Vandals spray painted pictures and profanity along the walkways, stone walls, and natural rock throughout the area.
“This was not a minor act of tagging by someone with a can of spray paint,” said Chief Ranger Clay Jordan. “The amount of damage maliciously caused to this beautiful setting is disheartening.” As such, Jordan announced that the Park is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for this vandalism. Rangers report that the graffiti includes references to “Wolfgang” and “Lumberjack”.
In 2010, the Park renovated the Sinks parking area including the construction of new stone masonry retaining walls, cut-stone walkways, and a new overlook area with a masonry wall and handrail so that all visitors, including the disabled, are able to safely view the waterfall and rapids. The Sinks is a popular destination for visitors throughout the year who stop to view the 15-foot cascade. Park employees spent several hours removing the offensive language and images using a variety of techniques to remove the paint without causing further resource damage.
It is unlawful to disturb or deface natural and historic resources within the Park. Perpetrators may be sentenced up to 6 months in jail and or fined up to $5,000. Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the vandals is encouraged to call the tip hotline at 865-436-1580.