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Great Smoky Mountains

Traversing the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, and close to America's major eastern metropolitan areas, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States.

Lying between the Little Tennessee River on the west and the Big Pigeon River on the east, Great Smoky Mountains National Park comprises some 800 square miles of breathtaking mountainous terrain—among the highest in the eastern United States—with altitudes ranging from 857 feet to the summit of Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet. This ancient Appalachian landscape is almost totally forested, even at the highest elevations, and parts of the Great Smoky Mountains constitute the largest area of old growth forest in the east. Awakening in springtime from the grip of winter's sleep, the park becomes a photogenic treasure-trove of colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, rushing streams, ethereal misty meadows, and migrant birds and animals emerging from hibernation.

As one of the largest tracts of wilderness east of the Mississippi River, this park is big enough to be home to 1,500 black bears, re-introduced elk, white-tailed deer, wild turkey and 120 species of nesting birds. The park also supports the most diverse population of temperate salamander species in the world—rivaling some areas of the tropics!

The fantastic biological diversity of these mountains is due to their remarkable variety of habitats, including forests of spruce and fir, oak, mixed northern hardwoods, pine and hemlock, with a small proportion (about 1%) of open meadows—called a "bald" if located on a mountain top. With more than 100 species of trees (more species than the entire continent of Europe), and more flowering plants than any comparable area in North America—over 1,600 total species have been recorded—it is not surprising the region has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Creating artful images of the spectacular and ephemeral wildflowers, from trillium (10 different species found in the park) to lady slipper orchid, showy orchis, bleeding heart, fire pink, crested dwarf iris, columbine and jack-in-the-pulpit are among our top photographic priorities. Depending on weather conditions and specific elevation, flame azalea, native rhododendrons, red bud and flowering dogwood add color to your images.

Join us to photograph among these mile-high mountains, capturing the many moods of this rolling landscape with your camera. A sunrise vigil from an exposed promontory presents miles of stacked Smokies ridges disappearing through lavender and magenta mist far into the horizon. In this enchanted land we feel the expectancy of the new spring season, wonder at the explosion of wildflowers underfoot, and marvel at the echoed melodious calls of wood thrush from dark forest tangles.

• Read Photo Safaris client David Boston's trip report from our 2013 Great Smoky Mountains trip

Day 1 (April 12)

Participants fly to Knoxville, Tennessee, and transfer independently by shuttle to our hotel in Gatlinburg. We meet for dinner this evening. (D)

Days 2–6

From our convenient hotel base we make daily excursions into the national park's interior to photograph landscapes, wildflowers, birds and other creatures in a wide variety of habitats. We visit the park's most photogenic areas. These may include: Chimney Tops, a twin-topped rhododendron-covered formation rising from its base in the Big Pigeon River, where wildflowers explode with diversity and numbers; Newfound Gap with tumbling waterfalls, spectacular vistas and towering hemlocks plus trout lilies, spring beauties, red and white trilliums and serviceberry underfoot; and Cades Cove, where we photograph the historic homesteads, churches, flora and fauna, including Catesby trillium, spring larkspurs and elusive birds like the wild turkey. (BLD)

Day 7 (April 18)

Depart at any time today; return transportation to Knoxville airport is arranged independently. (B)

Tour Details

April 12–18, 2014
$2,795 from Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Terms & Conditions

"The Great Smoky Mountains tour with Len Rue, Jr. was the most fun photography experience I have had in a long time."
—W. Bradway

"I was very pleased with every aspect of my tour in the Smokies—the scenery, the accommodations, the leader—all aspects."
—L. Bandes

"The guides do a superb job of planning ahead and attending to every detail, making our whole experience more productive and satisfying."
—D. Buchanan

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. P.O. Box 655, Vashon Island, Washington USA 98070
Phone: (206) 463-5383 Fax: (206) 463-5484 Email: info@photosafaris.com
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