North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
Help Protect the Vulnerable Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests
 

Cheoah Bald

Cheoah Bald – 9,453 acres NCMT; 6,958 acres PWA; 7,810 acres IRA

Recommendation: Backcountry Management Area/Special Biological Area

Naturalness: The Cheoah Bald Area contains forest with exceptional ecological integrity. Almost 5,000 acres of the forest is existing old-growth that has been documented in the area. The Cheoah Bald roadless area once encompassed over 21,000 acres. But logging and road building during the 1980s and 1990s reduced the size of the inventoried roadless area to 7,810 acres. However, most of the forest within the Mountain Treasure Area is in natural condition and the larger area is still exceptionally wild, with tremendous biological, scenic, and recreational values. Conservationists urge the protection and restoration of the larger area through, among other things, the decommissioning of some of the logging roads which are not being maintained.

Opportunities for Solitude: The Cheoah Bald Area provides excellent opportunities for solitude. Rugged terrain, innumerable coves, and the rich forest with large trees provide many places where sights and sounds of development are absent.

Opportunities for Recreation: Almost 10 rugged miles of the Appalachian Trail traverse the area. The Trail runs over Cheoah Bald, at 5,062 feet the “grandstand of the Appalachians”. The Bartram Trail also traverses and ends at its intersection with the Appalachian Trail, providing the opportunity for long hiking adventures. The Appalachian Trail’s Sassafras Gap shelter stands near the center of the area. The Nantahala River runs through the spectacular Nantahala Gorge along the southeast border. The Forest Service plans to study the Nantahala River for suitability for National Wild and Scenic designation.

Ecological and other values: The Cheoah Bald Area is believed to be the northern endpoint of William Bartram’s travels through the Southern Appalachians and is the current terminus of the Bartram Trail. The mountain is home to the endemic Cheoah bald salamander, which has not been fully studied, other rare species like the cerulean warbler, and globally rare plant species like sweet white trillium and mountain catchfly. The bald offers sweeping views northward of the Smokies, Stecoah Valley, the site of a Cherokee town, and portions of Lake Fontana. To the northwest are views of the Yellow Mountains, Joyce Kilmer and Snowbird, and to the south the Wesser / Tellico / Wayah Ridge, Piercy Bald, Ash Cove, and Tusquitee. The area includes three Significant Natural Heritage Areas:

Cheoah Bald

Tyre Knob Bert Creek Lead Stecoah Gap Cove Forests

Manageability: The Cheoah Bald Area includes Cheoah Bald and its slopes. It is bordered by the Nantahala Gorge and other features that would make its management as backcountry feasible and desirable.

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