Cataloochee Valley Wildlife Viewpoint [Suggest Edits]
While the Great Smoky Mountains offer a variety of native species for visitors to observe, few capture the imagination in the same way that the park's elk population does. Starting in 2001, elk were released into the valley in an effort to restore this majestic creature to the area. These large animals were mostly eradicated from the area before the 1850's. Restoration efforts began with 25 animals that were imported from the Tennessee - Kentucky border. The following year, the National Park Service imported another 27 animals to bolster the herd's numbers.
These beautiful animals are awe-inspiring, and observing the gentle giants in the fields of the Cataloochee Valley can create lasting memories. In the fall, bull elk display their signature antlers, and the fall is when the animals are most active. Bugles from bull elk courting potential mates echo through the valley, and can be heard up to 1 mile away. The spring months allow visitors to observe cows with newborn calves, and the spotted youngsters are the most captivating residents of the park. Photographers hoping to capture bulls, babies, or harems of cows will have the best luck at dawn and dusk when the animals are most active. During the heat of the day, most elk take refuge in the shaded portions of the park.
Please remember that the animals in Great Smoky are wild, and should NEVER be approached. Use binoculars, telephoto lenses, or sighting scopes to get a closer view, but please refrain from disturbing the animals, or from feeding them. Animals that are fed by humans are usually euthanized.
On the Road: While elk often move through the whole valley, this viewpoint can be reached easily by car.
Gem Type: Viewpoint
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