Approximate Size: 9,453 acres
Roadless Acreage: 7,810 acres
Old Growth Acreage: 4,635acres
Location: Swain and Graham counties, NC; 12 miles southwest of Bryson City; Cheoah Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest
USGS Topographic Maps: Hewitt, Wesser, Tuskegee, Noland Creek
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. The larger Mountain Treasure area is still exceptionally wild, with tremendous biological, scenic, and recreational values.
Almost 5,000 acres of old-growth forest have been documented in the area. Conservationists urge the restoration and protection of the larger area through, among other things, the decommissioning of some of the logging roads. During the RARE II study in the late 1970s and to this day, conservationists have considered this area a top candidate for wilderness. 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.”
This 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 the Yellow Mountains, Joyce Kilmer and Snowbird, and to the south the Wesser / Tellico / Wayah Ridge, Piercy Bald, Ash Cove, and Tusquitee.
The Appalachian Trail’s Sassafras Gap shelter stands near the center of the tract. 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.