By Steve Kemp
Based on the heavy flow of waterfalls and the plethora of mushrooms on trails, you might guess this has been a rainy year in the Great Smoky Mountains.
You are correct! According to Jim Renfro, the park’s air quality specialist and de facto meteorologist, 2020 has been the wettest year on record thus far at Newfound Gap and on Mount Le Conte.
Through August, Newfound Gap has recorded 71.6 inches of precipitation, which is more than 22 inches above average. Le Conte has recorded 78.7 inches, which is more than 18 inches above average.
To see what the annual precipitation records are for Newfound Gap and Le Conte, one need only go back to 2018. In that record year, Newfound Gap recorded 96.41 inches of precipitation and Le Conte logged a whopping 111.43 inches. That’s more than nine feet of water in one year!
"Since the drought years of 2015 and 2016, the park and region have had above-average precipitation. This is in-line with most of the climate prediction models calling for the Southern Appalachian Mountains to be warmer and wetter over the next 50 years," Renfro said.
September offers a wondrous diversity of mushrooms in the Smokies. The Cataloochee Divide Trails features some of the best, some of which are shown here.
Almost Famous Falls
While waterfalls like Abrams, Laurel, Rainbow and Grotto attract hundreds of waterfall watchers every day, the following falls draw far fewer fans.
Crooked Arm Cascade
(Best viewed in winter and after wet weather)
1.4-mile roundtrip hike off Cades Cove Loop Road
Baskins Creek Falls
(Spectacular after a heavy rain)
3.2-mile roundtrip hike off Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Fern Branch Falls
(Best between October and early April)
3.6-mile roundtrip hike on Porters Creek Trail
Mannis Branch Falls
(Visible in winter after very heavy rain)
Off Little River Road, 1.5 miles west of Elkmont
Juney Whank Falls
(125-foot long cascade)
0.6-mile loop hike from Deep Creek Trailhead
|Giant Club||Honey mushroom||Spindle-shaped yellow coral|
Waterfall photos by John Rush, mushroom photos by Ailish Garrett
Note: No wild mushroom should be eaten unless its identification is absolutely certain, which usually requires an expert to determine. Many mushrooms are poisonous, some are deadly poisonous, and the responsibility for eating any mushroom or fungus must rest with the individual.