This research effort designed and implemented a backcountry campsite monitoring program for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). This report reviews the need for visitor impact monitoring programs, describes monitoring procedures developed and applied at GSMNP, presents results from the first monitoring cycle, evaluates current park camping management policies, and provides recommendations for reducing campingrelated visitor impacts. Field staff assessed 377 campsites at 82 designated backcountry campgrounds, and all 18 shelters. Campgrounds are frequently bisected by park trails and more than half (188, 58%) of legal campsites are within 100 feet of a park trail. High campsite intervisibility diminishes the potential for solitude; 79% of the campsites have at least one other site visible, 26% have three or more other sites visible. Campsite conditions are quite variable, with some campgrounds exhibiting generally good conditions while others are exceptionally large, with substantial vegetation loss, soil exposure, and damage to trees. Evaluations of campsite condition data reveal a number of potential problems, most notably: 1) campsite proliferation, 2) campsite expansion and excessive size, 3) excessive vegetation loss and soil exposure, 4) excessive campfire-related degradation, and 5) low visitor solitude at campsites. Data are used to characterize these problems and evaluate influential relationships and contributing causes. Recreation ecology findings from other studies are considered in evaluating alternative management responses. Park backcountry management policies are also reviewed and recommendations are offered for management consideration.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
An assessment of campsite conditions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park