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Vista Clearing Coming to the Smokies

"Cut and Run" logging interpretive sign Great Smokies

This interpretive sign on Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smokies describes how loggers "Cut and Run," leaving forests denuded. In the 75 years since the loggers left, once open vistas have grown in, even at overlooks. This summer, "vista clearing" will "turn back the clock," says the National Park Service. Photo by Randy Johnson.

If you’d driven through the Smokies 50 years ago you would have seen a landscape recovering from clearcutting and fires with rocky peaks and distant views in all directions.

Today, the verdant greenery of the Smokies has softened those views and even obscured many once dramatic vistas. “Vista clearing” is the remedy. From the Smokies, to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and on to Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive, clearing vegetation from roadsides and overlooks is critical if park visitors want to cast their eyes beyond the trees.

First Effort in Years

In the first such work in the Smokies in decades, the Park Service plans to clear forests below 34 popular overlooks in the park.

Park staff will be on hand to advise when contractors remove or thin view-blocking trees and then administer herbicides in an effort to discourage the return of trees. Rhododendron and other shrubs will be left to shade the soil, further discouraging tree growth and ultimately reducing the need to clear the vistas again in the near future.

Roads will remain open but the overlooks may be closed while the work is done. Expect to see the “vista management” work under way from April 1 through August 1 along Newfound Gap Road, Clingmans Dome Road, the East and West Foothills Parkway, the Gatlinburg Bypass, Rich Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Lakeview Drive, and Cataloochee Road.

New Experiences Await

With major view-opening efforts expected, late summer and autumn 2012 may be a great time to see more of the Smokies than motorists have been able to see in quite some time. The Park Service says visitor surveys have always determined that “viewing scenery – scenic views” are the number one goal of park visitors. After this summer’s extensive vista clearing, even the least enthusiastic scenery seeker is likely to see why the Smokies have wowed visitors for more than 75 years.


I can understand thinning the trees and opening up the line of sight for the many beautiful vistas in the park, but not using herbicides. Seems like everytime chemicals are used something bad happens. An unexpected rain, which happens alot in the Smokies, could send the chemicals in to areas where the wrong vegitation ends up dying.

Logging and herbicides in national parks so that folks don't have to get out of their cars to see the views. Insane.

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