Great Smoky Mountains National Park Flood Leads to Closures, Damage: PHOTOS

by Jon D. B.

After Yellowstone’s catastrophic flood event, Great Smoky Mountains is the latest national park to enact closures due to damaging floods.

Mid Wednesday, July 13, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) would temporarily close roads, trails, and facilities in the Greenbrier area of the park to all motorists and pedestrians due to flood damage. The park’s Porters Gap area received an estimated 8.72 inches of rain within several hours around 9:00 p.m. the day prior, leading to extensive flooding. Areas of Porters Creek Road has been destroyed as a result (below), alongside significant damage elsewhere.

Porters Creek Road destroyed, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo credit: GRSM, NPS media release)

The downpour comes on top of an existing 5 inches of rain over the last week. The already saturated soils of the national park produced flash flood conditions along the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Combining with the intense storm cell of the last 48 hours, GRSM has no choice but to enact closures.

“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,” says Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski.

Water safety is paramount in the Smokies. “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,” Sumeriski adds. He asks that all visitors “please exercise caution when recreating near or attempting to cross rivers in the park.”

The Flood Damage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park So Far

GRSM’s preliminary damage assessments include significant road washouts along the Porters Creek Road. Culvert damage is also of great concern. The washing out of footlongs on Ramsey Cascades Trail is also causing considerable damage.

Temporary park closure include:

  • All Greenbrier area roads
  • Greenbrier Picnic Area
  • Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion
  • Ramsey Cascades Trail
  • Porters Creek Trail
  • Backcountry Campsites 31, 32, and 33

The Old Settlers, Brushy Mountain, and Grapeyard Ridge Trails will continue to be open to the public. However, hikers cannot access these trails from the Greenbrier area currently. Visitors should plan their routes carefully.

If you plan to hike Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be prepared to turn around if you encounter high-water river crossings. Damage to trail conditions along these routes is also a concern.

The flood event is currently developing. More information about the repair schedule will be available after assessments are complete. For public safety and the efficiency of response operations, closures are in effect to all pedestrians until further notice.  For more information on water safety, please visit GRSM’s NPS site here.