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Wilderness Wildlife Week presents 250 free seminars, concerts, outdoor excursions, May 8-12

  wilderness wildlife week
  Tennessee WIldlife Resources Agency displays wildlife information -- Image by Jeaneane Payne

PIGEON FORGE, TN — One of the most attended events in the Smokies is Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week. This year it will be held May 8-12. More than 100 new sessions have been added. Young outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy some of these. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

Wilderness Wildlife Week is in its 28th year. It offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Wilderness Wildlife Week showcases a diverse range of speakers and experts who share their vast knowledge of life in the Great Smoky Mountains,” said Pigeon Forge Executive Director of Tourism Leon Downey. “From a fishing tournament for kids to an 11-mile hike to Mt. Cammerer, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers something for everyone.”

Wilderness Wildlife Week was named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast for May 2018 by the Southeast Tourism Society. Wilderness Wildlife Week also claimed a Gold Kaleidoscope Award - top honors - in the 2018 Southeast Festival and Events Association’s Best Event Program category.

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The headline session includes Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and Friends in a program entitled Heaven and Nature Sing (May 8 at 7 p.m.). Forensics experts Dr. Bill Bass and Art Bohanan (May 9 at 8:30 p.m.) return to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region. Also, several historic Sevier County houses of worship are the focus of two outings led by Kathy Gwinn.

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from various lectures. Topics range from the area’s rich heritage to conservation. Outdoor demonstrations include back country and Dutch oven cooking. Workshops focus on basket weaving, photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are:
• My Wild Life: From Bears, Panthers and Pandas to People with Ken Johnson
• Frontier Life: Women’s Role in Western Frontier Living in North Carolina with the Overmountain Victory Trail Association
• The Ragmen of Appalachia featuring Joseph Williams, Ranger Recollections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1960s with Joe Kelley
• The White Caps: The Great Unmasking presented by Don Williams, and a Great Smoky Mountains Association film series.

Hikers of all experience levels can choose from several excursions each day. Highlights include:
• 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
• Six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
• A nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
• 2.5-mile Cades Cove Loop Road Night Hike (May 10 from 8-10:30 p.m.).

wilderness wildlife week
Cades Cove memorabilia -- Image by Jeaneane Payne

A special kids’ track is offered for younger outdoors enthusiasts Participants can learn more about topics ranging from composting, snakes, and photography. Jenkins, an acclaimed photographer, leads a first-time session entitled Connecting to Nature in which he examines how to engage wildlife and experience first-hand some of the ways to connect to nature and capture its beauty. A children’s Old-Time Scavenger Hunt (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Kids’ Trout Tournament (8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12) both take place on Saturday, May 12.

More than 50 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association and Onsite Heritage Museum, East Tennessee Historical Society, Keep Sevier Beautiful, and Tennessee Trail of Tears, are open daily during the conference beginning at 10 a.m. in LeConte Hall.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and everyone is invited. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit

About Pigeon Forge:
Pigeon Forge is located in East Tennessee, approximately 35 miles from Knoxville and McGhee-Tyson Airport. Two-thirds of the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River lives within a day’s drive, making it an easily accessible family vacation destination. The city’s neighbor is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the U.S. It also is home to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, Tennessee’s most-visited ticketed attraction. More information about all aspects of Pigeon Forge are available at or toll-free at 1-800-251-9100 and at

Published May 6, 2018

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