Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Rock Slide on Little River Rd. may be cleared by Sunday evening

This is a hot topic on the blog, so I’ll try to keep updated daily on the latest from the Little River Rd. rockslide.  The road is closed right now, and it looks like crews are hoping to get the road back open by Sunday evening. According to the article below, it was discovered at around 2AM Thursday morning.  Little River Rd. is the road to Cades Cove (or Townsend) from Gatlinburg in the park.  If you are leaving the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot, Little River is the road you would turn right to head down.  We drove down that road a couple of weeks ago.  This is also the way to get to Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.  That’s where we were headed. 

Fortunately, Cades Cove is closed while they rebuild the road there, so I would imagine fewer people would need Little River Rd. than usual anyhow.  Hopefully it will be open Sunday evening.

I’ll update this post as I get new info… feel free to subscribe to this blog, so the updates will be sent to your automatically:)

This rock slide is the 7th rock slide in the last 5 months in the Smokies…


**This blog post brought to you by  One of the best views of Mount LeConte and Ober Gatlinburg are seen from the deck of The Smoky Mountain Tower.  You can see photos on the website.  Check it out for your next visit to the Smokies! BTW, the location is PERFECT.  Right between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  You can go to either city, OR the park, without having to drive through the others.***

Tremont renovations planned… officials want your input about future plans.

Officials want your input on what to do with the facilities at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.  The park needs your comments by April 15th.  It looks like they want to renovate/rebuild the dorm building at Tremont.  We visited Tremont for the first time during our trip last week.  It looks like a great place to go for education.  I’d love to have spent time there at camp as a kid.  Hopefully my girls can go to camp there in the future.  You can learn more about the plans at the link below…


**This blog post brought to you by  Our favorite place to stay in the Smokies is the Smoky Mountain Tower.  Check out the views! On our most recent trip (this month,) we decided to buy a cabin in the Smokies in the next few years. We can only hope we can buy a place as nice as**

History of schools in the Walker Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I’m copying/pasting another story from the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s email newsletter…  This this, it’s a look back at school in the Smoky Mountains… enjoy!

Early School Days in Walker Valley With the dawn of a new school year upon us, we thought it would be appropriate to peek into the past. Below is an excerpt from the forthcoming book about the Tremont area, to be published by fall: A Home in Walker Valley by Jeremy Lloyd.

Early School Days in Walker Valley

Before the turn of the 20th century the residents of Walker Valley didn’t consider themselves “mountain folks” because so far as they knew everybody lived the way they did. Children probably didn’t covet things enjoyed by city children because they may not have been aware that such things even existed.

One thing Will Walker knew they should have, however, was a proper education. The problem was that the nearest school lay seven miles away. So Will traveled twenty-two miles – a long distance back then – to Maryville to pay a visit to the Blount County school board. Someone more prideful might have refused to ask for help, but nothing would stop Will from lobbying for a school in Walker Valley. One imagines that his imposing stature and striking features might have played a role in administrative officials taking his request seriously.

Self-taxation had funded public education in Tennessee since 1845. By around 1900, however, funds for a new school in Blount County were too few. Thus Will’s request was passed along to the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs which had recently created a department to combat illiteracy among mountain residents. Affiliated organizations as far away as Ohio raised the first $50 toward a teacher’s salary for the Walker Valley Settlement School. The school opened for a two-month summer term in 1901 and was taught by Andrew Dunn.

A new teacher from Cincinnati arrived the following summer. Frederic Webb and his mother Emilie, who’d fallen in love with the place during a visit, would make Walker Valley their home in the summers of 1902 and 1904. In the interim Fred attended seminary. The urbanite noted in his journal that few sounds were audible except those made by cowbells, children and the roar of the river. “The sound of neither a steam-whistle or church-bell had ever penetrated these mountains,” he wrote. At night it was a very dark place, the only light coming from fireplaces peppering the area. Along with education Fred hoped also to provide a spiritual light for the residents of Walker Valley.

The community experienced a series of “firsts” when the pair of strangers arrived in the summer of 1902. The Webbs arrived with a wagon which no one in Walker Valley yet possessed. Emilie’s dog Dewey, riding like a circus monkey on her lap, was the first pet that many residents had ever known anyone to own. Likewise had few people ever seen a washboard, clothespins, and graniteware cooking utensils. Upon seeing a bright red lampshade for the first time, one little girl asked, “Miss Webb, what kind of bloom is that?”

Will set aside land and furnished lumber for the construction of a cottage, which he and Fred set about to building. Small with two rooms, it was the first dwelling in the valley to have two porches, doors with locks, and a floor made of sawed lumber. It was listed by the Department of Education as the first “teacherage” in the United States.

Stop by The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s website at

You can also learn more about Walker Valley on this direct link on the Institute’s website…


****The place we stay when in the Smokies is . The tower has the best view of the Smokies from any rental we’ve stayed in.  It’s in the perfect spot as well.  Right between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg!*****

What can you find under rocks in the Smoky Mountains? Try it, you might be surprised!


I found an excellent little article in the e-zine I get from the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont.  On our last trip to the Smokies back in the Spring, I DID pick up some rocks and look closely at what was underneath.  There were interesting looking organisms I’d never seen before.  This article addresses that.  The little “experiment” also made me want to bring some snorkling goggles on my next trip.  I can only imagine what I could see as I picked up the rocks and watched what swam away under the water.  I wanted to post a link to the e-zine, but I couldn’t find it on their website, so I copied it here below…

What Lies Beneath

by Jarrett Beecher, Environmental Education Summer Intern

The river is much more than it appears. It is much more than its surface. What lies beneath is an interconnected community of living and non-living organisms. Campers have discovered this unknown community throughout the summer picking up and flipping over rocks in the Middle Prong of the Little River. To their disbelief and excitement, there are millions of tiny, creepy alien-like critters called Freshwater Macroinvertebrates clinging and crawling about.

These aquatic creatures lack backbones and are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. They come in many different forms such as insects, crustaceans and mollusks. Some common types of macro invertebrates found in the park’s streams are fly larvae such as Mayflies, Stoneflies and Caddisflies. Through the process of metamorphosis, larvae that are adapted to aquatic conditions transform into adult flies with wings that they use to exit the water and fly away in order to mate.

These larvae and other macroinvertebrates play an integral role in the river shed ecosystems of the Smokies. Like the plankton of the oceans, they serve as a major food source for fish, amphibians and birds residing in and around the rivers. Besides an entrée, they are involved in the breakdown and cycling of organic matter. Think of them as the earthworms of the river. They are responsible for decomposing all of the leaves that fall into the river during autumn here in the Smokies. Last, certain types of macroinvertebrates such as Mayflies and Stoneflies larvae that are very sensitive to stress caused by pollution can be used to assess the health of a freshwater environment.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to go out, get wet and flip some rocks. You’ll be surprised by what you find or maybe surprised by what you don’t find. Leave no rock left unturned!

Image: Ecdyonuridae, from Wikimedia commons

Here’s a link to Tremont’s website…