UT’s partnership with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a unique and mutually beneficial relationship. This collaboration supports and enhances public access, appreciation, financial support, preservation and stewardship of the park, while providing essential educational, research, and service-learning opportunities for students and faculty.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park News
Each spring, hundreds of pilgrims from across the country and around the world, descend upon the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to experience and celebrate the remarkable views in what is known as the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. In 1951, the year of the first annual pilgrimage, visitors atop Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, could have seen rich green hillsides and a view that stretched for 100 miles.
“Would it be feasible to promote some sort of a spring flower jubilee?” It was that simple question, posed 60 years ago, that birthed an event that now attracts people from all over the country and the world to the Great Smoky Mountains every year for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, being held this year April 21 through 25.
Sixty years ago it was just a seed of an idea inside Bart Leiper’s head — a celebration of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Leiper, general manager of Gatlinburg’s Chamber of Commerce, wrote Samuel Meyer, then head of the botany department at UT Knoxville, requesting the department to arrange a so-called spring flower jubilee. Seeing the opportunity to turn the park into a giant outdoor classroom for students, botanists and nature-lovers alike, Meyer recruited professors Fred Norris and Royal Shanks to organize the first ever Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies.