The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places to experience the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. The park is a beautiful place on a normal day, but hundreds of thousands of tourists will be there to experience a total solar eclipse. The park close to the “path of totality,” meaning that a total solar eclipse will be visible. Read on for a look at maps of the path of totality over North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as some big events scheduled for the national park.
The partial solar eclipse will start in Gatlinburg, Tennessee at 1:06 p.m. CT, with maximum totality happening at 2:35 p.m. CT. According to NASA, the length of totality will be about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is split between Tennessee and North Carolina. The path of totality cuts right through the Southwest part of the park, which covers 522,419 acres in total.
According to the National Weather Service, it should be a great day in the area. Pigeon Forge, where Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is located, is expecting a high of 90 and no rain. There is a chance of rain in the afternoon in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Viewings & Events
Since the National Park will experience a beautiful view of the total solar eclipse, local businesses are cashing in and tourists are flocking to the region. First though, it’s important to note that you need special solar eclipse glasses to look directly at the eclipse. Some events will have them available for you, but you might need to bring your own.
Bryson City, North Carolina had events planned all weekend and has several great spots to view the eclipse. There’s Swain County Event Park, where musicians will be performing; Darnell Farms, where there are plenty of activities for kids; and Riverfront Park, where more musicians will be performing. An event at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is already sold out.
Cherokee, North Carolina is hosting Cherokee’s Cultural Eclipse Celebration. This event began on Sunday and will educate children and families on how Native Americans mark a total solar eclipse. There will also be several bands and musicians performing. The event ends tonight with a bonfire.
NASA also knows that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place to observe the total solar eclipse. WATE reports that NASA scientists have taken over Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point of the park at 6,643 feet. It’s Tennessee’s highest point and the second-highest point east of the Mississippi River.
“We’ve partnered up with NASA for our event here at Clingmans Dome and we’re really excited about it,” Molly Schroer of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park told WATE. “One of the neat things NASA is able to do is broadcast the entire program and the eclipse from Clingmans Dome to everybody back in their homes.”
NASA also brought astronaut Soichi Noguchi to Clingmans Dome to speak at their event, along with NASA earth scientist Doug Morton.
“I have been fortunate enough to fly to the space station twice,” Noguchi told WATE. “I’m hoping to talk to the young generation tomorrow about the conservation of the beautiful environment like here in the Great Smokies.”
Unfortunately, the Clingmans Dome event requires tickets purchased beforehand to go. As Recreation.gov notes, the tickets cost $30 and only 1,325 tickets were made available. The event did sell out. However, if you can’t make it, there is a live web cam set up at Clingmans Dome.
The Knoxville News Sentinel notes that Clingmans Dome will be closed to all vehicle traffic today and the show will go on rain or shine. The National Park Service recommends visitors plan for heavy traffic delays and congested parking lots.
Morton told WATE that events like these help NASA scientists learn more about our sun.
“The solar corona is the outer atmosphere of the sun,” Morton explained. “It’s super hot. It’s a million degrees but the surface of the sun is only 10,000 degrees and we actually don’t fully understand why the corona is so hot. During the solar eclipse we will be trying to make a better measurement of the solar corona, to understand how our sun, our star, contributes to space weather and life here on earth.”