Great Smoky Mountains National Park temporarily closed roads, trails, and facilities in the Greenbrier area of the park to all motorists and pedestrians due to flood damage. On Tuesday, July 12, the Porters Gap area received an estimated 8.72 inches of rain within several hours around 9 p.m. according to National Weather Service Doppler radar. This area of the park recently received approximately five inches of rain over the last week, resulting in already saturated soils before the storm cell produced flash flood conditions along the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River.
“We remind everyone to be mindful of weather forecasts and to be prepared with an emergency plan before heading out into the backcountry as these popup storms can cause the rivers to rise rapidly,” said Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. “Just last Friday, emergency responders from the park and Gatlinburg Fire and Rescue successfully rescued a 13-year-old boy from rising flood waters in the Chimneys Picnic Area. Please exercise caution when recreating near or attempting to cross rivers in the park.”
Preliminary damage assessments include significant road washouts along the Porters Creek Road, culvert damage, and washed out footlogs on Ramsey Cascades Trail. The temporary closure includes all roads, Greenbrier Picnic Area, Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion, Ramsey Cascades Trail, Porters Creek Trail, and Backcountry Campsites 31, 32, and 33. Old Settlers, Brushy Mountain, and Grapeyard Ridge Trails will continue to be open, but hikers cannot access these trails from the Greenbrier area during the closure and should plan their routes carefully. Hikers should be prepared to turn around if they encounter high-water river crossings or damaged trail conditions along these routes.
More information will be provided about the repair schedule after assessments are completed. For public safety and the efficiency of response operations, the area is closed to all pedestrians until further notice.
For more information on water safety, please https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/watersafety.htm. While water recreation is not recommended in the park, park officials remind those who choose to swim, tube, or kayak in park waters, that in addition to fluctuating water levels, significant hazards can exist both above and below the water. Proper personal protective equipment, including closed-toe shoes and helmets, is recommended for anyone kayaking or using tubes. The use of life jackets while in a recreational floating vessel, including tubes, is required for children under the age of 12 in Tennessee, children under the age of 13 in North Carolina, and recommended for all adults.
For more information about temporary road closures across the park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm.
- National Park Service release