Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont
The first people to settle in the area that would become known as Tremont was William Marion Walker and his family. Walker, who gave his name to the valley that Tremont is in, came to the live in the area and became a bit of a legend in his own time. Known for his skills with a gun, this mountain man kept his family fed through beekeeping. Supposedly he kept his hives of bees (over 100) without the use of a mask or smoke. He pulled the honey from the hives and sold it to those people living in the nearby communities.
As Walker’s reputation grew, he opened up Walker Valley to tenant farmers who moved into the area and a small community was formed. This community included farmers and even gristmills to help the farmers process their grains. In the late 1890s the area of Walker Valley saw the first large scale logging operation move into the area. In 1901 WB Townsend opened the Little River Lumber Company. This operation started to log heavily in what would become the GSMNP. The people of the community of Walker Valley either moved out or found a livelihood off the logging camps. The logging company combined the words tree and mountain to form a new name for the area: Tremont.
Eventually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park became a reality and Townsend sold the land of Tremont to the Department of the Interior who were establishing the boundaries of the National Park. The Tremont area had been a home for logging and then a vacation site for people coming to the mountains during the summer. With the establishment of the GSMNP, Tremont was a destination for people hiking but not much more… until 1969.
In 1969, Maryville College and the National Park Service founded the Tremont Environmental Education Center. Over the years, this project has changed and it has changed names. In 1980, the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association took control of this educational center and then in 1985 the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont was formed to further the education of people about this, the most visited national park in the country.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is located on the site of the old summer homes that were part of this area before the establishment of the park. This facility now brings education opportunities to people of all ages. The school age and above come to the institute to learn about the Smokies. It is a residential location that allows day long and week long, overnight events. Whether you are choosing to come and learn or donate your time to help keep the Tremont Institute a going concern, Tremont is a fantastic area in the Smokies.