Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Clingman’s Dome

NO, these folks are not walking a ramp to the “Mother Ship.”IMG_0241Although, it may look like it in this photo.IMG_0236Some folks are already there.IMG_0238What is this place and why are these people here?

At 6,643 feet, they’re at the Clingman’s Dome observation deck getting a great overview in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingmans Dome is not only the highest peak in GSMNP, but also the highest point in Tennessee, and the second highest point east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) in NC is higher. The tower is located on the state line ridge of North Carolina and Tennessee; the observation tower stands equally in both states.IMG_0237It’s located along the state-line ridge, half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee. To reach the peak, we drove the 7-mile Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap Road (US 441), which runs through the [park. After parking, we walked a steep 0.5-mile paved  trail that lead to this 54-foot observation tower. IMG_0247The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,144 mile journey. From the tower, the average viewing distance is about 22 miles.On a clear pollution free day, views can amplify as far as 100 miles into 7 states.

Where did the mountain get its name, I was curious and learned it was named after Thomas Lanier Clingman, Civil War general and U.S. T Clingmansenator from NC. He was appointed senator (D) in 1858 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Asa Biggs. During the civil war, Clingman was one of 10 senators who refused to resign and was expelled in absentia. During the Civil War, he was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He  explored and measured mountain peaks, and through his survey work, he spread information that NC was a site to find diamonds, rubies, platinum, corundum, and various other rare minerals. 

Clingmans Dome is open year-round, but the road leading to it is closed from December to April 1, and whenever weather conditions require. Hiking and cross country skiing is allowed on the road during the winter.

The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make it a coniferous rainforest. But, pests, disease, and environmental degradation threaten the fragile spruce-fir forest. Dead trunks litter the area, and dying trees struggle to survive another year. Berries thrive in the open areas; a young forest will replace the dying trees.


What's killing the trees at Clingmans Dome?

The balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae)  an insect pest that infests and kills stands of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) in the spruce-fir zone. This fir occurs naturally only in the southern Appalachians and used to be the dominant tree at the highest elevations. Because the adelgid was introduced on trees imported from Europe, the fir has little natural defense against it.

The adelgid blocks the path of nutrients through the tree by injecting it with toxins. The trees starve to death; thousands of dead snags are all that’s left on the highest mountain peaks.

A “cousin” of this insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, is killing hemlock trees throughout GSMNP.


Daisy said...

It's so sad about the trees being killed off. It looks like a beautiful spot. I don't do very well with high, open places, though, so I'm not sure I would want to walk out to the deck. :)

Montanagirl said...

I'm not good with heights, but it must be one grand view from up there!

Elaine said...

That looks like you had a great view up there. The spruce and birch trees in Alaska have some serious problems with similar infestations too. Hopefully they will figure out a way of combating the nasty little critters.

possum said...

WOW! How it has changed... I was there in the late 70s. Seeing all those dead trees is heartbreaking. Glad you got to see it before they are all gone.

Out on the prairie said...

i missed this part of the park. I stood on a state line while there so I must have been close to this.

Sandra said...

awesome but it would not be me up there, i don't do HEIGHTS but i like looking at yours and this is a pretty odd and interesting looking dome

thecottagebythecranelakeolof1 said...

Beautiful photographs but to bad about the trees! That´s why it is so important to have very strict laws against moving living plants from one continent to another!

Have a great day!

Anvilcloud said...

I'd really expect a mother ship if it were the Klingon dome.

Anvilcloud said...

Wow! It just got easier to post here -- fewer steps.

Vagabonde said...

Thanks for coming to my blog a while back. I went on a trip shortly afterwards and could not make it to your blog. You do have an interesting blog and great pictures. I saw that you also visited the Mountain Farm Museum near Cherokee, NC. We did spend several days at the Cherokee Indian Reservation. I also wrote a post on this museum – see - we may have seen the same rooster. I’ll come back to read more of your posts after I am caught up reading my friends’ posts – I am way behind. Thanks again for posting a comment on my blog.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hi folks, blogger has been its share of hiccups lately (better term than the unkind one I was thinking about). Glad you enjoyed the view from the top, but of course, you all had the easy part of NO kike. Grenville and I were fairly winded and made several stops along the way up. There are benches along the way to sit and rest a bit.

Daisy, Elaine, Possum and CHrister we agree on the sadness of the tree devastation, and quite frankly it looks pretty awful from the observation tower (sorry). Maybe a new forest will have some resistance to these pests.

Hi Steve, if you get back to GSMNP, this would be a place to visit.

Good point, AC, now WHY didn't I think of that one. Glad you find posting comments easier. We enabled pop-up comments as embedded was having all sort of problems. Maybe this will work out better for everyone!

Welcome Vaganode and thanks for the comments and compliments too! Yes I will check out your blog post on the Mountain Museum and we may well have seen the same rooster - no others were around that day. I will be revisiting your blog as's sooo easy to get behind especially when blogger has been having problems lately.

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