PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. -- The holiday season is over, the polar vortex has retreated and cabin fever is setting in. Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., provides the antidote.
Wilderness Wildlife Week, Jan. 25-Feb. 1, is eight days of photography workshops, lectures, mountain music mini-concerts and demonstrations, plus 55 hikes and excursions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
All of the indoor events – 320 programs – are at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, a new $45 million special events facility in the heart of town.
This is the 24th annual Wilderness Wildlife Week, which is organized and presented by the City of Pigeon Forge. Admission is free to all activities.
When Pigeon Forge launched Wilderness Wildlife Week, there were only four programs on a single Saturday afternoon. It now fills eight days.
“Wilderness Wildlife Week is one of our signature events. It is a time for people to learn about many aspects of the outdoor world, about the culture of the Southern Appalachians and about the people who make this area special,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
New for 2014 is a daylong series of programs about mountain trout, fly-fishing and fly-tying on Feb. 1. Southern Trout, an online magazine, lined up the experts for those presentations.
The week’s outdoor activities include owl prowls, a photography tour in Cades Cove, a four-mile walk through the Elkmont historic district, a llama trek and a strenuous 11-mile hike to Mt. Cammerer. Round trip transportation to the hikes’ trailheads is provided.
The lineup of programs is different every day.
Among the programs are “Southern Bears,” “Taking Great Cell Phone Photos,” “Wildflower Folklore,” “Learn To Use Map and Compass,” “Hosting Hummingbirds” and “Songs of the Carter Family.”
There are special programs for children, ones about the heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains and several devoted to improving your photography skills. Some of the region’s top nature photographers lead the photo programs.
More than 200 experts – nature photographers, biologists, raptor rehabilitators, social historians, musicians and just plain folks who grew up in the Smokies – donate their time to lead Wilderness Wildlife Week programs.
“The week is extremely flexible. You can come for one program, one day or the whole week,” Downey said. “We have so many ways to connect you to our beautiful part of the country.”
Wilderness Wildlife Week in 2013 drew people from 26 states, Washington, D.C., Australia, China and New Zealand.
Wilderness Wildlife Week, named 10 times as a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event, is a part of Pigeon Forge Winterfest, which starts in November and goes through February.
Pigeon Forge completes Winterfest with Saddle Up, a celebration of cowboy poetry, western music and chuck wagon cooking, Feb. 19-23.