Smokies LIVE Blog

Back of Beyond excerpt, park entry fee question both featured in upcoming Smokies Life

In 10 feature-length stories, all of which examine Great Smoky Mountains National Park-specific themes, GSMA’s spring Smokies Life looks at some of the earliest efforts to establish a national park in the eastern U.S., business endeavours that failed to take root in and around the park, and the impact climate change is having on the Smokies today.

“The magazine’s gorgeously designed articles have gotten a little bit shorter, allowing us to present a greater and more diverse array of topics pertaining to both natural and cultural history, and to address some current issues in and around the park,” said magazine editor and GSMA’s Interpretive Products and Services Director Frances Figart. “We love being able to offer GSMA members and park visitors these 10 deep wells of information, each made richer by the voices of local leaders, experts and park supporters.”

With GSMA’s planned release of Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography also slated for April, Smokies Life provides readers with an excerpt from the book, which takes a closer look at the man who helped lead the group effort to convince the U.S. government to create a national park in the Smokies. Staying with the history theme, retired University of Tennessee librarian Ken Wise looks at the women responsible for founding Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tenn. “Support for childhood education had been a stated mission of the Pi Beta Phis, and the opportunity to start a settlement school would be a bold initiative in fulfilling this mission,” he says.

Climate change’s impact on the park, coupled with an examination of why this national park remains one of only a few without an entry fee was a strategic grouping of topics, Figart said.

“These are all issues that we need to be aware of in order to effectively support the park’s mission to ‘preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system,” she said. “We enjoyed the process of working on these stories closely with our park partners for their expertise, guidance, input and ultimate approval.”

“Trout fishing in the Smokies” by former GSMA staffer Steve Kemp introduces readers to some of the most legendary Appalachian fishers who share their secrets for catching “the big one” in the park’s most elusive waterways. “Decoration Day at the North Shore cemeteries” by author Courtney Lix takes readers across Lake Fontana to learn more about why a group of people feel the need to advocate for regular access to these remote cemeteries.

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s 50th anniversary of serving as an important educational hub in the park is highlighted for its work to connect people to the Smokies in the hopes that they’ll develop a personal connection to the rich diversity of life that exists here. Likewise, the mountain tradition of gathering with friends and neighbors on porches, by hearths and in barns to make music has been researched and written about by Rose Houk in “Instruments and the luthiers who craft them.”

Published for the last 13 years in the spring and fall, GSMA’s award-winning Smokies Life magazine is a free benefit of becoming a Great Smoky Mountains Association member at any level. Others may purchase Smokies Life at any Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center store or online at

Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a mission to promote greater public understanding and appreciation of the park of through education, interpretation and research. Proceeds from visitor center sales and membership dues from more than 28,000 members have allowed GSMA to contribute more than $42 million to national park program support since its inception 65 years ago.


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Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320