Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced on Thursday, Sept. 26 a temporary ban on backcountry campfires effective immediately. Due to abnormally dry weather conditions, the potential for wildfires to occur in the backcountry has dramatically increased. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice.
“The park is experiencing abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions throughout the park,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With little rain and hot, dry conditions predicted over the next week, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”
The fire restriction only applies to campers utilizing the park’s 100 backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the Park’s 9 frontcountry (developed) campgrounds or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves that utilize pre-packaged compressed gas canisters is still permitted at backcountry campsites.
Backpackers should be aware that drought conditions also affect the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle. Many of the springs in the higher elevations are running significantly slower than normal at this time and the following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 16, 26, and Mollies Ridge Shelter. This list is expected to grow as the drought conditions continue. Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.
For more information about regional drought conditions, please visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu. For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.
– National Park Service release