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

Mackey Mountain

15,102 acres NCMT; 11,795 acres PWA; 5,916 acres IRA

Recommendation: The entire Mackey Mountain Treasure area should be recommended for wilderness.

Naturalness: Portions of Mackey Mountain were part of the first purchase of national forest lands under the Weeks Act (Burke-McDowell Tract). Mackey Mountain and the valley of Mackey Creek contain the largest unbroken tract of old-growth forest on the Pisgah National Forest with 5,476 acres of existing old growth. Many of the ridges hold fragments of old-growth hardwood forest and some of these are accessible by trail. The Clear Creek drainage provides water for the town of Marion and also grows some of the largest trees on Mackey Mountain. Much of the old-growth is in dry, non-productive forest types that were not attractive, nor accessible, to loggers in the early 20th century. However, the 1912 purchase date did save thousands of acres of old-growth here and in the nearby Jarrett Creek area that provide a glimpse of what the forests of the area were originally. A major portion of the area is protected bear habitat. It sustains a large population of black bear and hikers often see well-worn bear trails and trees marked by clawing.

Opportunities for Solitude: The Mackey Mountain area provides excellent opportunities for solitude. Ridges isolate the area from Forest Service roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway. As a result the area is strikingly absent from human caused sounds. On the other hand, the area is accessible to recreation users. Leaving Curtis Creek Campground or the upper trailhead, visitors will almost immediately find an uncommon solitude and quietness.

Opportunities for Recreation: The Curtis Creek Campground is adjacent to the Mackey Mountain area, and the Hickory Branch Trail leads out of the campground up to the Buckeye Knob Trail. The Mackey Mountain Trail traverses the area through several areas of old growth. Several other routes provide the potential for a great trail system.

Ecological and other values: This area represents significant ecological value with extensive remnant old growth (5,476 acres). Most of the forest that was logged in the early 20th century is recovering mature forest with good ecological integrity.

Opportunities to increase the ecological representation of ecological types that are currently under-represented in the Wilderness Preservation system include a variety of ecological types especially Appalachian Cove Hardwood, Appalachian Hemlock- Hardwood; Appalachian Oak, Appalachian Oak –xeric; Appalachian Montane Oak, and Small Stream and Riparian Forest. Stands of Carolina hemlock are found within the Mackey Mountain Significant Natural Heritage Area. There are 1,944 acres of State Natural Heritage Areas within the Mackey Mountain Area:

Mackey Mountain Beartree Ridge

Manageability: Consisting of Mackey Mountain and its intersecting ridges, the area contains the entire upper drainage of Mackey Creek. The area is geographically well defined and configured for management as a wilderness area.

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