Prescribed burns planned for Cades Cove starting this weekend

by Feb 3, 2024General Announcements0 comments

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The National Park Service (NPS) plans to burn approximately 1,000 acres of fields in Cades Cove at Great Smoky Mountains National Park between now and the end of March. Weather permitting, burn operations may begin as early as Saturday, Feb. 3.

These seasonal prescribed fires help to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove.   Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters in Cades Cove. These burns have helped us to prevent encroachment of woody plant species and to preserve native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys and ground nesting birds. Without the use of prescribed fire in Cades Cove, the cove would experience natural succession to forest.

Before conducting a prescribed burn, park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. If conditions are not met, the NPS will continue to monitor conditions to identify another burn window this winter or spring.

Fire managers successfully burned about 130 acres in Cades Cove last November before conditions became unfavorable. Specifically, the crew plans to burn the Primitive Baptist unit (338 acres) this weekend. If time and conditions allow, they will also burn the Increase Fields unit (272 acres). Crews will burn the Cemetery Marsh (291 acres) and Old Field (85 acres) units in the coming weeks as conditions allow. Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Sparks Lane and Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Hyatt Lane and the road to the Primitive Baptist Church will be closed during prescribed burn operations.

Visitors should also expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones and refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.   For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park’s Wildland Fire webpage.

  • National Park Service release