On July 6, 2016, Friends of the Smokies, an organization which aims to preserve the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, announced that it has won a $250,000 grant for being one of the top nine most-voted-for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks campaign.
Friends of the Smokies will use the grant money to help restore the deteriorating Clingmans Dome Observation Tower at the peak of the park’s tallest mountain, according to a news release from the organization.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher.
The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.
On clear days views expand over a 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution often limits viewing distances to under 20 miles.
Park officials have said the tower is structurally strong but needs rehabilitation to correct four inches of foundation settlement caused by uneven force on the structure.