When you consider the fact that Tennessee has the largest number of registered caves in The United States (over 8,300) it is no wonder that caves can be found in and around the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMNP).
Three of the most famous comercial (you can take guided tours in them) caves near the Smokies are Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, and The Lost Sea in Sweetwater. But there are several caves inside the park its self.
The GSMNP has 17 caves within it;s boundaries. Some of the caves inside the park are Scott Gap Cave, Blowhole Cave, Gregory’s Cave, and Bull Cave. None of these caves are open to the public.
“ Be fore warned that entering the caves within the park is unlawful and you will be prosecuted.“
My reason for discussing the caves within GSMNP is to expand on the diversity of the park. Caves provide an environment sought out by several critters that live in the park.
While the USGS was surveying caves in the GSMNP they noted seeing:
- The Long-tailed Salamander
- The Northern Slimy Salamander
- The Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander
- The American Toad
- The Fowler’s Toad
- The Wood Frog
- The Pickerel Frog
- The Northern Green Frog
And of course other animals use the caves as homes, as sleeping quarters , and during hibernation. Bats also use the caves, but not exclusively, they hang around in trees as well.
Eleven species of bats have been recorded in the GSMNP:
- Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat
- Big Brown Bat
- Silver-haired Bat
- Eastern Red Bat
- Hoary Bat
- Eastern Small-footed Bat
- Little Brown Bat
- Northern Long-eared Bat
- Indiana Bat
- Evening Bat
- Eastern Pipistrelle
All the bats of the GSMNP feed exclusively on insects (best mosquito control in nature). During the colder months bats either hibernate (some in the caves) or migrate to warmer areas. The Red Bat, the Hoary Bat, and the Silver-Haired Bat are known to be migratory thus leaving the rest to hibernate; however, bats have been seen flying in the park during the entire year.
Earlier in the psot I noted that all caves in the GSMNP are closed to the public. This is done to protect the bats.