Great Smoky Mountains National Park Continues To Suffer Damage From Torrential Rains

Continued heavy rains this winter have washed out roads across Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including the Cataloochee Road past Palmer Chapel, and toppled the pedestrian bridge across Walker Camp Prong along the popular Chimney Tops Trail. NPS photos.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which already has lost its main road to a rain-induced landslide, continues to suffer from torrential rains that are washing out other roads. Even the 70-foot-long foot bridge along the popular Chimney Tops Trail has been knocked out by the rains.

Flooding last week has led to the temporary closure of sections of gravel roads within several popular areas. Closed areas include Greenbrier Road past the Greenbrier Ranger Station, Cataloochee Road past Palmer Chapel, and Parson’s Branch Road, park officials said Thursday afternoon.

During the rain event on January 30th, the park received more than 4 inches of rain in 24 hours. That deluge resulted in flooding of streams throughout the park, which were already swollen from higher than normal precipitation throughout January.

Average rainfall during January across the Smokies averages 5-7 inches, but the park received 14-17 inches of rain this January.

The gravel roads in Greenbrier, Cataloochee, and Parson’s Branch were washed out, exposing underlying rock and culverts. Park crews are assessing the damage and estimate that repairs will be completed by the end of March. In addition to replacing culverts, roads will need to be graveled and re-graded.

High waters also destroyed the pedestrian bridge across Walker Camp Prong along the popular Chimney Tops Trail. The 70-foot-long bridge, originally built in the late 1950s, will have to be replaced to allow trail access. Trail crews are assessing bridge replacement options and do not yet have a date estimate for completion.

For more information about road closures, please visit the park’s website or call the park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.