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

Santeetlah Bluffs

4,450 acres NCMT

Recommendation: This entire Mountain Treasure Area should be placed in Special Biological Area management or Backcountry Management Area

Naturalness: The centerpiece of the Santeetlah Headwaters area is the 5565’ Huckleberry Knob, the tallest mountain in the Unicoi Range and the source of the clear, bold waters of Santeetlah Creek. Extending northeast from its summit are Doc Stewart and Art Stewart Ridges, which form the perimeter of the Indian Creek watershed.

Also included in the Mountain Treasure are the Santeetlah Bluffs, recognized as a special area of virgin forest by the Forest Service and the coves around the little known and beautiful Wright Creek Falls, an impressive 80’ drop. Much of the area is visible in sweeping panoramas from the Cherohala Skyway.

The area includes what is arguably the most important collection of old-growth on Nantahala National Forest outside of Joyce Kilmer in a variety of forest types including Northern Hardwoods, Boulderfield Forest, High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Acidic Cove Forest, Rich Cove Forest and what was one of the world’s finest examples of Hemlock Forest before it was devastated by the hemlock wooly adelgid. There are 1531 acres of Old Growth forest in this Mountain Treasure area.

Opportunities for Solitude: The Santeetlah Bluffs area has ample opportunities for Solitude in some of the best examples of diverse forests in the southern Appalachians.

Opportunities for Recreation: The Santeetlah bluffs area has ample opportunity for recreation including off trail hiking, fishing and nature study.

Ecological and other values: The Santeetlah Headwaters Mountain Treasure includes what is arguably the most important collection of old-growth on Nantahala National Forest outside of Joyce Kilmer in a variety of forest types including Northern Hardwoods, Boulderfield Forest, High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Acidic Cove Forest, Rich Cove Forest and what was one of the world’s finest examples of Hemlock Forest before it was devastated by the hemlock wooly adelgid. There are 1531 acres of Old Growth forest in this Mountain Treasure area.

These forests contain some of the largest specimens of a number of trees on Nantahala National Forest including an 80” poplar, a 66” red oak, a 64” sycamore, a 52” sugar maple, a 49” black cherry, and many other individuals of various species over 4 ft. in diameter at breast height. Hot spots for big trees include the Santeetlah Bluffs, all sections of Indian Creek not logged in the 1970s and 80s and the coves around the falls on Wright Creek.

A large area of old-growth Northern Hardwoods west of Huckleberry Knob remains undelineated. The human-maintained grassy balds on the summit of Huckleberry Knob are also important wildlife habitat and accessible via trail from the Cherohala Skyway.

This area contains two State Natural Heritage Areas:Huckleberry Bald (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA)

Santeetlah Bluffs/Wright Cove (portion currently recognized as SIA

Manageability: The area is bounded by the Cherohala Skyway and FSR 81 and could be managed for its backcountry, scenic and biological diversity.

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