Great Smoky Mountains National Park suffered significant damage to park roads and trails following a flood event last week resulting in 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.
During the rain event on Wednesday, Jan. 30, the Park received over four inches of rain in 24 hours resulting in flooding of streams throughout the park which were already swollen from higher than normal precipitation throughout January. Average rainfall during January across the Park averages 5-7 inches of rain, 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 pedestrian bridge, originally built in the late 1950s, will have to be entirely 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 at www.nps.gov/grsm and or call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.