Registration for the 67th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage opens at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 1.
Each year, more than 700 people from more than 35 states and beyond descend on the Great Smoky Mountains as the spring flora tints the forest with flowers and vibrant spring migratory birds return to their summer home. This year, the pilgrimage is April 11–15.
The event is sponsored in part by the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Online registration is available on the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage website. Registration fees are $75 per person for two or more days or $50 for a single day. The registration fee for students is $15 with a valid student ID presented at on-site registration.
The pilgrimage offers 148 guided walks and evening talks. This year features 60 wildflower programs, 25 birding programs, and nine programs focusing on wildfire ecology along with a number of events on ferns, mosses, medicinal plants, bear and hogs, insects, bats, fungi, salamanders, ecology, tree and wildflower identification, cultural and natural history, and bird and wildflower photography and sketching. The pilgrimage also features the Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and Sunlight Gardens native plants along with a native plant display.
A reception at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts the evening of Wednesday, April 12, honors Mary Ruden, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage’s Artist of the Year. Ruden’s painting “Wildflowers” appears on the 2017 brochure cover and pilgrimage T-shirts.
This year, the evening programs will feature Charles Maynard presenting “Reading Between the Lines—Stories of Writing about the Smokies’ Waterfalls, Churches, and Trails,” Park Ranger Scott McFarland presenting “Natural Sounds and Night Skies: Protecting the Acoustic and Nocturnal Environments of National Parks” and Zone Fire Management Officer Greg Salansky or Rob Klein presenting “Fire Ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is a collaboration between UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, the City of Gatlinburg, Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Gatlinburg Garden Club, UT Chattanooga and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Of the 100 event leaders, several are faculty and graduate students from the UT Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.