Southern Appalachian Mountains

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Southern Appalachian Map

 The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and the majestic Great Smoky Mountains


The Southern Appalachians are shared by the citizens of West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Definitions, however, vary on the precise boundaries of Southern Appalachia. The Smoky Mountains are a major mountain range in the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains. Referred to as the Smoky Mountains or the Smokies, they straddle the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, and are entirely west of the Eastern Continental Divide. The Great Smokies form a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are located within the larger Southern Appalachian Mountains. (See Great Smoky Mountains and Elevations.)

Great Smoky Mountains Map
Great Smoky Mountains Map.gif
Map of the Great Smoky Mountains

Clingman's Dome Tower
Clingman's Dome.jpg

(Right) Photograph of observation tower at Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the national park.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a United States National Park that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the prominent feature of the mountains. It was established as a national park in the 1930s, and, with more than 9 million visits per year, it is the most-visited national park in the United States. (Much of the range is also protected by the adjoining Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, and Cherokee National Forest.)


The name Smoky is derived from the natural haze just above or over the mountains. Also, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hydrocarbons produced by trees and other local vegetation — as well as higher humidity — produce a bluish cast to the sky, even over short distances. Visibility is dramatically reduced by smog from both the Southeastern United States and the Midwest, and smog forecasts are prepared daily by the Environmental Protection Agency for both nearby Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina.

(Related reading below.)

Recommended Viewing: Hillbilly: The Real Story (2008) (The History Channel). Description: Join host Billy Ray Cyrus on a journey into the hollers and runs of Appalachia to discover the proud legacy of the region's mountain folk. Learn how hillbillies, long misunderstood and maligned as isolated and backward, actually have a 300-year history of achievement and success that has contributed significantly to our national identity. In this two-hour special you'll meet outcast immigrants, war heroes, isolated backwoodsmen, hard working miners, fast moving moon shiners, religious warriors, musicians and statesmen. Continued below...
You'll learn of their contributions, which include establishing the first labor unions, battling the British, and spawning some of the most popular aspects of American culture today, like NASCAR and country music. And you'll see them in a whole new light. “The numerous candid interviews highlight this outstanding addition.”
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Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of Appalachia (Hardcover) (1864 pages) (University of Tennessee Press) (March 1, 2006). From Booklist: The University of Tennessee Press received support from a number of companies, individuals, foundations, and organizations to fund the production of this comprehensive source of a major region of the U.S. The editors worked for almost 10 years on the project. Abramson is a journalist with the Los Angeles Times and a native of Alabama. Haskell is former director of and professor in the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University. The encyclopedia adopts the 2005 definition used by the Appalachian Regional Commission, describing Appalachia as consisting of 410 counties in 13 states from Mississippi to New York. The organization of the encyclopedia is thematic. There are five broad subject areas: "The Landscape," "The People," "Work and the Economy," "Cultural Traditions," and "Institutions." Each section begins with a five- to six-page introduction and is then subdivided into smaller subsections. "Work and the Economy" includes "Agriculture"; "Business, Industry and Technology"; "Labor"; "Tourism"; and "Transportation." Each subsection is an A-Z of people, places, and things.

The perception of Appalachia has been tarnished with numerous social, environmental, and economic problems, and the editors confront these as well as covering the positive aspects of the area. The 2,000 entries, written by more than 1,000 contributors from academia and journalism, include stereotypical topics (Feuds and violence, Hillbilly) but also subjects such as urban Appalachia and cultural institutions like the Pittsburgh Symphony. The entries are concise, well written, and readable both for the layperson and the scholar. Although publicity for the encyclopedia advertises its ease of use, for a true reference source, a single alphabetical sequence would have improved quick access. The major finding aid, the general index, is sandwiched between the index of contributors and the photo credits. There are no color illustrations, and the black-and-white photographs do not really enhance the text. This is an additional "area" encyclopedia but covers a larger section of the U.S. than other recent encyclopedias treating Chicago, New England, and New York. The editors and publisher are to be commended for completing a monumental work, and the reasonable price makes it a recommended purchase for all academic and large public libraries and also for high-school libraries in Appalachia. Christine Bulson Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.


Recommended Reading: Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads (Touring the Backroads). Editorial Review: This guidebook, unlike most, is so encyclopedic in scope that I give it as a gift to newcomers to the area. It is also an invaluable reference for the visitor who wants to see more than the fabulous Biltmore Estate. Even though I am a native of the area, I learned nearly everything I know about Western North Carolina from this book alone and it is my primary reference. I am still amazed at how much fact, history and folklore [just enough to bring alive the curve of the road, the odd landmark, the abandoned building] is packed in its 300 pages. The author, who must have collapsed from exhaustion when she finished it, takes you on a detailed tour, laid out by the tenth of the mile, of carefully drawn sections of backroads that you can follow leisurely without getting lost. Continued below...

The author is completely absent from the text. The lucid style will please readers who want the facts, not editorial comment. This book, as well as the others in this publisher's backroads series, makes an excellent gift for anyone, especially the many seniors who have relocated, or are considering relocating to this fascinating region. It is also a valuable reference for natives, like me, who didn't know how much they didn't know.


Recommended Reading: Our Southern Highlanders: A Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of Life Among the Mountaineers (548 pages). Description: A narrative of adventure in the southern Appalachians and a study of life about the mountaineers. Horace Kephart is the man most responsible for the existence of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park spanning the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Continued below...

Using his numerous journals, he wrote of first-hand observations of the mountains and people during his 10 years of travels through the Appalachians. 6x9 trade paper, 548 pages. Includes foreword by Ralph Roberts.


Recommended Reading: Appalachia: A History (496 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: Interweaving social, political, environmental, economic, and popular history, John Alexander Williams chronicles four and a half centuries of the Appalachian past. Along the way, he explores Appalachia's long-contested boundaries and the numerous, often contradictory images that have shaped perceptions of the region as both the essence of America and a place apart. Williams begins his story in the colonial era and describes the half-century of bloody warfare as migrants from Europe and their American-born offspring fought and eventually displaced Appalachia's Native American inhabitants. Continued below..

 He depicts the evolution of a backwoods farm-and-forest society, its divided and unhappy fate during the Civil War, and the emergence of a new industrial order as railroads, towns, and extractive industries penetrated deeper and deeper into the mountains. Finally, he considers Appalachia's fate in the twentieth century, when it became the first American region to suffer widespread deindustrialization, and examines the partial renewal created by federal intervention and a small but significant wave of in-migration.Throughout the book, a wide range of Appalachian voices enlivens the analysis and reminds us of the importance of storytelling in the ways the people of Appalachia define themselves and their region.
He or she who cares deeply about this region needs this book. (Blue Ridge Country)
An outstanding interpretation of Appalachian history. Williams's explanations on many topics are the best presently available from any publication. (Author/historian Gordon B. McKinney, Berea College)
Recommended Reading: Touring the East Tennessee Backroads (Touring the Backroads) (380 pages) (John F Blair Pub; 2 edition) (October 1, 2007). Description: The historical facts in the first edition of Touring the East Tennessee Backroads have not changed much since the book was first published in 1993, but highway construction and development has altered the routes of the 13 tours. For this second edition, the author drove over 3,000 miles to update the tours where people such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Sequoyah, Nancy Ward, and Clarence Darrow once traveled the same backroads.

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: Southern Appalachian Mountains History Map Smoky Mountains Smokies Western North Carolina East Tennessee Cumberland Gap Elevation Peaks List of Highest Mountain Peak Elevations Picture Photograph Photo Smokie

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