Clingmans Dome, with Spruce-fir forest
|Elevation||6,643 ft (2,025 m)|
|Prominence||4,503 ft (1,373 m)|
|Listing||U.S. state high point|
|Sevier County, Tennessee and Swain County, North Carolina, U.S.|
|Range||Great Smoky Mountains|
|Topo map||USGS Clingmans Dome|
|Easiest route||Short paved trail hike|
Clingmans Dome (or Clingman's Dome) is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the southeastern United States. At an elevation of 6,643 feet (2,025 m), it is the highest mountain in the Smokies, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,174-mile (3,499 km) Appalachian Trail. East of the Mississippi River, only Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet or 2,037 metres) and Mount Craig (6,647 feet or 2,026 metres) are higher. Clingmans Dome has two subpeaks: 6,560-foot (2,000 m) Mount Buckley to the west and 6,400-foot (1,950 m) Mount Love to the east. The headwaters of several substantial streams are located on the slopes of Clingmans Dome, namely Little River on the north slope, and Forney Creek and Noland Creek (both tributaries of the Tuckasegee River) on the south slope. The mountain is located entirely within the Tennessee River watershed.
Clingmans Dome is protected as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A paved road, closed from December 1 through March 31, connects it to U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). The concrete observation tower, built in 1959, offers a panoramic view of the mountains in every direction. An air quality monitoring station, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the second highest in eastern North America.
The Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest which covers Clingmans Dome occurs only at the highest elevations in the southeastern United States, and has more in common with forests at northern latitudes than with the forests in the adjacent valleys. Clingmans Dome stands prominently above the surrounding terrain, rising nearly 5,000 feet (1,500 m) from base to summit. The forest on and around Clingmans Dome has experienced a large die-off of hemlock and fir due to two invasive species of insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid and the balsam woolly adelgid.
Reputedly known as "Kuwahi" (the mulberry place) by the Cherokee Indians, the mountain was dubbed "Smoky Dome" by American settlers moving in from other areas. In 1859, the mountain was renamed by Arnold Guyot for compatriot Thomas Lanier Clingman (1812–1897), an American Civil War general who explored the area extensively in the 1850s and then spent many years promoting it. Guyot named the mountain for Clingman because of an argument between Clingman and a professor at the University of North Carolina, Elisha Mitchell, over which mountain was actually the highest in the region. Mitchell contended that a peak by the name of Black Dome (now known as Mount Mitchell) was the highest, while Clingman asserted that Smoky Dome was the true highest peak. Guyot determined that Black Dome was 39 feet (12 m) higher than Smoky Dome.
The Clingmans Dome consists of a geological formation known as the Copperhill Formation. It consists predominately of massive, coarse-grained metagreywacke and metaconglomerate. The Lower northern flanks of Clingmans Dome are underlain by thick and typically southward-dipping layers of sulfidic, quartz-garnet-muscovite phyllite and schist, which occur within the metagraywackes and metaconglomerates. Adjacent to and south of its summit, thin, southward-dipping, and discontinuous beds of garnetiferous, locally graphitic and sulfidic, metasiltstone occur within the Copperhill Formation.
Although a dense forest understory covers most of the mountain, outcroppings of the Copperhill Formation can be found on Clingmans Dome at the Forney Ridge Parking Lot at the end of Clingmans Dome Road. This outcrop exposes massive metaconglomerate of the Copperhill Formation. At this outcrop, it consists of massive 6-m (20-ft) thick beds of micaceous quartzite. It contains coarse pebbles of quartz and feldspar, flat pebbles of fine-grained black graywacke, and egg-shaped concretions up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. These cobble-size concretions are readily eroded by weathering to leave rust-stained depressions or cavities in the metaconglomerate.
The Copperhill Formation is part of the Ocoee Supergroup, which is a body of clastic metasedimentary rocks that is about 15 km (49,000 ft) thick. They unconformably lie upon Precambrian granitic and gneissic rocks. The sediments that originally comprised the Ocoee Supergroup accumulated in a string of narrow, deep-water basins that stretched along the entire southern-central Appalachian margin from Tennessee, North Carolina, to Georgia. These basins were rift basins formed by the rifting of Rodinia around 560 Ma.
The initial metamorphism of the Ocoee Supergroup occurred about 400 Ma as the result of Ordovician-Silurian tectonism during the Taconic orogeny. Later, Devonian-Mississippian metamorphism of these strata occurred during the Acadian orogeny and additional Pennsylvanian to Permian alteration by retrograde metamorphism and deformation occurred during the Alleghanian orogeny. During the latest part of this orogeny, this segment of the Appalachian Mountains was formed by thrust faulting and folding that uplifted these strata as a series of complexly deformed thrust sheets. During the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, the gradual uplift and erosion of this part of the Appalachian Mountains has continued.
Clingmans Dome is the most accessible mountain top in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Closed from December 1 through March 31, the 7-mile (11 km) Clingmans Dome Road begins just past Newfound Gap and leads up the mountain to the Forney Ridge Parking Area, 300 feet (91 m) below the summit. A half-mile (800 m) paved trail leads from the parking lot to the 54-foot (16 m) observation tower at the top of the mountain. The short, steep trail provides a small visitor information center and park store staffed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, garbage cans, and numerous benches to the side of the path. Vault toilet restrooms are available. The trail offers a glimpse of the often hostile environment of highland Appalachia, passing through the spruce-fir forest and its accompanying blowdowns and dead Fraser Firs. The observation tower allows spectators a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains, on the infrequent occasion of a clear, sunny day. Cantilevered signs, hanging from the rails of the tower, point out the various peaks, ridges, cities, and other features visible in the distance. Depending on the haze, visibility ranges from 20 miles (32 km) on hazy days to 100 miles (160 km) on very clear days.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, passing immediately north of the observation tower. A 7.5-mile (12.1 km) leg of the trail connects the mountain with Newfound Gap, and provides the only non-overnight access to the mountain in winter months. The nearest A.T. backcountry shelters are the Double Spring Gap Shelter, which is 2.6 miles (4.2 km) to the west near the Goshen Prong junction, and the Mount Collins shelter, which is 4 miles (6.4 km) to the east near the A.T.'s Sugarland Mountain Trail junction. Clingmans Dome is the base for several additional hiking trails, including the Forney Ridge Trail (to Andrews Bald) and the Forney Creek Trail (to the Benton MacKaye Trail on the shores of Fontana Lake).
The western terminus of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which connects the Smokies to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is located atop Clingmans Dome. It follows the Appalachian Trail for 3.8 miles (6.1 km) to the east, where it then begins to descend toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, via the Fork Ridge Trail.
1946 Aircraft Crash
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Clingmans Dome.|
Thornberry-Ehrlich, T (2008) Great Smoky Mountains National Park Geologic Resource Evaluation Report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR—2008/048. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Retrieved 2013-7-28.