Safe Passage film fest highlights road ecology

On Thursday, October 26, the Safe Passage Fund Coalition will host a free film screening at Asheville’s Pléb Urban Winery presenting the short documentaries Cascade Crossroads and Critter Crossings in the Cascades. Members of the Safe Passage group dedicated to improving wildlife-crossing opportunities along I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge hope to draw lessons and inspiration from the films following the progress of similar efforts in Washington’s Cascade Range.

One of the great benefits and privileges of exploring Western North Carolina and East Tennessee is the opportunity to see a diverse array of wildlife wherever you go. But whether you live here or are just passing through, chances are you’ll mostly be watching the spectacle from behind a windshield. Driving from Great Smoky Mountains […]

Put safety first as elk herd enjoys 21st rut season

Absent from the Smoky Mountain landscape for 150 years, elk staged a return in 2001 with help from park biologists and resource managers. Provided by Joye Ardyn Durham.

While humans are focused on world events and weather updates, elk have only one thing on their minds. From now to early November, hormones kick in and these large ungulates go into overdrive. During the fall breeding season, bulls’ antlers reach maturity, and their ethereal bugling calls resonate through fields and forests within the park […]

Echoes in the mountains: The next generation

Images by Phoebe Carnes The early morning mist had just dissipated as the sun began to rise over the mountains. The Oconaluftee River was clear and cold, rejuvenated from a light shower the previous night. A cow watched me warily from the forest, ears up and nostrils twitching as she deciphered my scent. A fuzzy […]

Echoes in the mountains: A herd in sacred waters

Images by Phoebe Carnes Before I began observing elk in Smokies, I never thought of them as water-loving creatures. But it wasn’t long before I learned that the elk here have a profound relationship with the Oconaluftee River that is as fascinating as it is multifaceted. The Oconaluftee River (or Egwanulti) is considered to be sacred […]

TedX speaker champions Safe Passage project for wildlife

three bears on the side of the highway

When Nikki Robinson walked out onto the stage during the final dress rehearsal for TEDx Asheville last month, the spotlights of the Diana Wortham Theatre shining in her eyes, she thought, “This is what it feels like to be a deer in the headlights.” And then she smiled and relaxed a bit, realizing the irony […]

Echoes in the Mountains: On bulls and close encounters

Dominant bull elk like Bull B closely guard groups of female elk known as 'harems'.

When I first started studying the bull elk of Oconaluftee last fall, I quickly learned that each male is an individual. They each have their own quirks that make them easily recognizable. One of the first males I began to study was a bull who goes by the name of “B” within the park service. […]

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