• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

There are park alerts in effect.
hide Alerts »
  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Air Quality Research & Projects: January, 2009

Light at night: monitoring light from communities surrounding the park.

We’re used to electric lights making our nights brighter. But many animals aren’t: from insects to turtles, nighttime lights confuse animals and even threaten some species by changing hunting, migratory, and reproductive behaviors. As part of a nationwide light pollution inventory, NPS employees and volunteers scrambled atop Clingmans Dome on some chilly nights in late October to capture images of the night sky. Researcher Kate Magargal from the Night Sky Program, an NPS initiative based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, said that the most pristine (darkest) night skies are still in the Western National Parks. In the Smokies, light from Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, and even Atlanta spills across our night sky. Look for more detailed information about the impacts of light pollution on the park’s animals (including humans) in future “Dispatches.”

For more information about the program and light pollution in other National Parks, visit the NPS Natural Lightscapes Overview.

Return to Resource Roundup: January, 2009.

Did You Know?

Visitors can often spot bears in trees at the edges of forests.

Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. More...