Because of the danger of wildfire, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has temporarily banned all backcountry fires.
East Tennessee is in the midst of a drought, and with the falling leaves now on the ground, the danger of wildfire is very high. Thousands of acres have burned across the state in the last few weeks because of the extremely dry conditions, and last weekend, the U.S. Forest Service implemented strict fire restrictions in the Cherokee National Forest which limits fires in undeveloped areas
The Smokies ban only applies to campers in the park's 100+ backcountry sites and shelters. Backpacking stoves are still allowed.
People using the park's developed frontcountry campgrounds or picnic areas can build fires, but they must be in designated fire rings and grills and fully extinguished when finished.
“With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of extreme fire danger,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since 2007, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”
The drought is also affecting the availability of water in the backcountry.
Park officials say several backcountry campsites are without water: 5, 6, 16, 26, 113, Mollies Ridge Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Spence Field Shelter, Silers Bald Shelter, Double Spring Gap Shelter, and Pecks Corner Shelter. Other campsites may be without water as the drought conditions continue
In locations where there is still water, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle.
Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.