Great Smoky Mountains National Park on pace to break record after wildfires

Photo: WKRN

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was just six months ago that thousands of acres were burned as wildfires ripped through Sevier County.

Despite the loss, some tourists told News 2 it’s hard to tell when you’re soaking in the East Tennessee mountains.

“They’ve shown strength by growing again and the fires are not going to hold them down,” said Indiana hiker Rose Melvin.

Spokeswoman Dana Soehn said the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on pace to break the 11 million visitor record from 2016.

“We have a 1.1 percent increase over last year – a record year,” she explained.

Photo: WKRN

PHOTOS: Wildfires in East Tennessee

Soehn said Mother Nature is healing itself but really only a small percentage was damaged in the first place.

“You do see those hot spots that were intensely burned where we had some losses of those canopy trees, but overwhelmingly you see regrowth,” she explained. “You had just a small fraction where you had intensely burned areas.”

As for the natural residents, Soehn said the animals are back and the green is in full bloom.

“There have been a lot of activity across the park, so people should come for that glimpse – maybe a Smoky Mountain bear,” she said.

Photo: WKRN

According to Soehn, all but four trails have reopened and those will take some time to recover.

“Our crews have been really focused on what we could do to serve the bulk of the visitors,” she said.

Just like in Gatlinburg, the best thing you can do is come and visit and take in the breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Fourteen people were killed and more than 2,500 structures were damaged by the fires.

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