New land added to Nantahala National Forest for water quality, hiking trails

  A highly prized 50-acre slice of forest will remain forever untouched as it officially becomes part of the Nantahala National Forest.

The relatively small Fires Creek parcel on the Cherokee-Clay county line of the 500,000-acre forest was the object of a contentious, decade-long battle among the private landowners, the U.S. Forest Service and forest visitors who wanted to see a wilderness-like setting remain in its natural state.

Everyone involved seemed to walk away satisfied Nov. 20, 2017 when the nonprofit Mainspring Conservation Trust closed on the property to keep Fires Creek forever preserved in conservation.

The outright purchase of the land, which contains no structures, was a welcome holiday gift for the land trust and the many forest users including hikers, hunters and anglers who are still seeking solitude in nature.

“Fires Creek is designated as an Outstanding Resource Water, the highest designation available in North Carolina,” said Sharon Taylor, Mainspring executive director.

The Nantahala National Forest is a sweeping swath of forest that covers some of the most rugged, remote, scenic country in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It is home to several wilderness areas, including Ellicott Rock, Southern Nantahala and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock.

The forest is crisscrossed with trails, streams, lakes, wildlife corridors, waterfalls, precious plants and wildlife, all of it undeveloped except for campgrounds and hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails.

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