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

Linville/Grandfather Mountain Conservation Area

Conservation Areas: Dobson Knob, Linville Gorge Extensions, Upper Wilson Creek: Lost Cove, Harper Creek, Sugar Knob Wild Areas

The 138,000-plus acres of the Grandfather Mountain/ Linville Gorge Conservation Area is a study in contrasts, spectacular scenery and world-class biological richness. Grandfather Mountain soars to almost 6,000 feet; the rim of the Linville Gorge averages 3,400 feet, with the Linville River which sculpted it flowing below at an average elevation of 2,000 feet.

Over 60 rare plants and animals occupy their various niches on the mountain. It also shelters one of six known populations of a tiny tarantula, the spruce-fir moss spider. And, because of its height, Grandfather Mountain is on the southern edge of several species’ ranges, including the northern saw-whet owl, the Appalachian cottontail and the black-capped chickadee. Migratory bird species, including warblers and other songbirds, abound and the mountain’s seeps and springs provide habitat for 16 species of salamanders.

Other species that find a home in the area include deer, black bear, squirrel, raccoons, grouse and turkey. In all, there are 12 biological hotspots in this conservation area.

Important aquatic systems in the area include Wilson Creek, which flows for 23 miles from its source on Calloway Peak on Grandfather Mountain to its junction with the Johns River. Congress designated Wilson Creek a Wild and Scenic River in 2000. Efforts are underway to classify the Johns River riparian corridor as Outstanding Resource Water. The Linville River is a critical aquatic refuge and North Carolina has given it Natural and Scenic River protection.

The diverse elevations of the gorge and the mountain suggest considerable ruggedness in this conservation area. That tortured terrain accounts for the fact that a documented 27,800 acres of old growth forest remain. Steepness and roughness discouraged loggers and developers across much of the area.

Alpine ecosystem of Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Lamar Marshall.

Within the conservation area are Dobson Knob and Linville Ridge to the southwest of the gorge. Restored and protected, they will provide very effective wildlife connectivity with the nearby Black Mountains Conservation Area.

The Grandfather Mountain/Linville Gorge Conservation Area is rightly considered to be one of the premier natural areas in the entire Southern Appalachian region. Despite that status, though, the area has far too little protection. Road building, residential development, destructive logging and, in some cases, poorly managed recreational use all nibble away at the area’s biological and other natural values.

There are some exceptions to this at-risk status and the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is chief among them. Within the wilderness is a single old growth tract of over 10,000 acres. We propose significant additions to the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.

The Nature Conservancy manages a 3,000-acre tract on Grandfather Mountain under a conservation easement. Wild South is working on legislation to designate 25,500 acres of the Pisgah National Forest along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Grandfather Mountain to Blowing Rock as the Grandfather National Scenic Area.

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