A wildfire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area tripled in size over the last 24 hours despite firefighters' progress on line construction to slow its spread, the U.S. Forest Service says.
The Table Rock Fire now covers 300 acres and is 5 percent contained, a Forest Service news release said late this morning.
One hundred firefighters, including crews from surrounding states, are battling the blaze.
This fire covered 15 acres when first detected on Tuesday in the Table Rock Picnic Area, in the east-central part of the gorge. A cold front brought windy conditions to the area, and westerly winds pushed the fire farther east Wednesday.
The picnic area and several trails in the Table Rock Mountain and Shortoff Mountain areas are closed to the public.
The fire threatened an Outward Bound camp, but firefighters have been able to reduce fuel around the camp by removing vegetation and burning out around the structures.
There are no other homes or structures threatened at this time and no injuries have been reported, the news release says.
Smoke from the wildfire and from burn-out operations will increase the amount of smoke coming from the area today, officials said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Fire investigators are asking the public to contact the Pisgah National Forest's Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144 with any information about persons in the Table Rock picnic area on Monday, Veteran's Day.
The National Weather Service said early this morning that "critically low relative humidity values will persist into this afternoon creating enhanced fire danger threats" in the region. There is a possibility of heavy rain late Sunday, the NWS said.
A Charlotte Observer photo by Brady Linkous shows Linville Gorge's Table Rock Fire from afar on Wednesday. Click on the photo for the Observer's report.
The Table Rock Fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest grew to 100 acres overnight and is expected to continue to grow over the next couple of days, the U.S. Forest Service said this morning.
The blaze is about one-quarter mile southwest of Table Rock Mountain in the east-central part of the Gorge. It is near the Outward Bound base camp area, which is vacant and being protected by firefighters. No other homes or structures are threatened as of the Forest Service's 10 a.m. update, a news release said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Forest Service asks anyone with information about individuals who may have been in this area last weekend to phone U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp at 828-652-2144.
The U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Burke County Emergency Management, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are fighting the fire with two helicopters, bulldozers, chainsaws and other equipment. Firefighters were working to clean up existing roads, trails and firelines from previous fires to contain the wildfire.
The fire was not at all contained as of this morning.
The National Weather Service said this morning that "northerly winds may briefly gust as high as 20 mph late this morning before gradually diminishing this afternoon. These conditions will likely hamper ongoing wildfire suppression activities."
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.)
The U.S. Forest Service said this afternoon firefighters were trying to contain a wildfire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
A news release just after 1 p.m. said it was a 15-acre fire, but a followup at 3 p.m. said it was 40 acres. About 40 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, Burke County Emergency Management, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission were at work on the fire.
The fire is in the west-central part of the gorge about one-quarter mile southwest of Table Rock Mountain and is threatening the Outward Bound base camp area, the Forest Service said.
Trails near Table Rock Mountain, and the Table Rock picnic area were closed.
The National Weather Service warned this afternoon of "increased fire danger throughout the Western Carolinas ... into the evening hours due to the increasing winds and dry fuels" as a front moves through the area.
The Forest Service promises more information about the Linville Gorge fire as it becomes available.
Morrow Mountain State Park will open its mountaintop parking lot and picnic area Saturday for the first time since June 13 when a storm damaged much of the park, the state Division of Parks and Recreation said on its Facebook page this afternoon.
A storm that hit Stanly County included microburst winds that damaged or destroyed multiple buildings and vehicles in the park, and downed or damaged trees that clogged campsites, parking lots, roadways, and trails. The entire park was closed until August 5.
According to the park's webpage, the following sections of Morrow Mountain State Park are open:
* Family campground (Sites 1 to 106)
* Organized group camping area (Sites 1 to 6) (see family campground link)
* All family vacation cabins (see family campground link)
* Boathouse and concession stand
* Boat ramp and fishing pier
* Picnic shelters B and C and the Lower Picnic Area
* Fall Mountain, Hattaway Mountain, Rocks, Quarry, Laurel,
and Three Rivers trails
* Campground-to-Pool Access Trail
* Kron House Restoration.
Remaining closed are:
* Picnic Shelter A
* Bridle trails and the bridle trail parking lot
* Backpack, Morrow Mountain, Mountain Loop and Sugarloaf Mountain trails.
The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail and the Morrow Mountain Trail are the hiking route to the top of Morrow Mountain. A road also serves the area.
The mountaintop observation deck and picnic area at Morrow Mountain State Park (below) opens Saturday for the first time since the park was damaged in a storm last summer. Click on either photo for more information.
Now that repairs to the dam at Balsam Lake Recreation Area have been completed and the lake refilled, the National Forest Service advises that visitors have the rest of November to rent the lodge at the Nantahala National Forest retreat.
The lake had been drained last spring and through the summer after a leak in the dam was noticed and heavy summer rains prohibited work. Today, the Forest Service said in a news release that the dam has been fixed and the lake has filled with water. They'll stock it with fish next spring.
The lodge offers 16 twin beds with linens, a kitchen with utensils and three bathrooms. All facilities are fully accessible. Rental costs $170 per night Sunday through Thursday, and $200 per night Friday and Saturday. There's a minimum stay of two nights on weekends (Friday and Saturday), and a maximum of 14 days.
The lodge closes for the season after November 30.
The 8-acre Balsam Lake, which will remain open to others beside lodge renters, has accessible fishing piers, a half-mile hiking trail, picnic shelter and vault toilet.
The leak was caused by a broken board at the bottom of the dam, the Forest Service said. Even though the board was less than a year old, it either had a hidden defect, which caused the failure, or absorbed too much moisture then expanded too much and cracked. About 30 boards had to be removed to get to the failed board.
Previous repairs to the dam were completed after the 2012 season ended, eleven months ago.
The U.S. Forest Service is adding material to the backstops for the pistol range and the 25-yard line, a news release says.
It will close November 4 and reopen when work is completed or by November 8, whichever comes first.
Earlier this year, the Forest Service added earthen back stops behind the 7-yard line and the 50-yard line at Dirty John. Forest Service personnel also improved drainage on the shooting range.
The end to the federal government shutdown means federal outdoor recreation lands are reopening.
Meanwhile the four national forests in North Carolina can't make such a blanket statement.
A National Forest Service news release (that hasn't made it to their website yet) says facilities in the Croatan National Forest will reopen by noon Friday, October 18.
In the Nantahala National Forest, all day use sites and campgrounds are currently open except for Cliffside Lake and Van Hook Glade Campground, and Moss Knob Shooting Range, which is closed due to construction.
In the Pisgah National Forest, all day use sites and campgrounds in the Pisgah and Grandfather Ranger Districts were to be open today, except for Sunburst Campground, which will reopen with limited services as soon as possible. The Forest Service says it "continues to open recreation facilities on the Appalachian Ranger District as possible."
Other federal outdoor recreation agencies are less punctual with news releases than the National Park and Forest services. Check with individual parks and campgrounds for the status of North Carolina's:
* Edenton National Fish Hatchery, which offers a raised-boardwalk nature trail through wetlands.
* Four TVA Reservoirs in the far southwest mountains.
Many federal outdoor recreation sites in the mountains close for the season at the end of October or early November. Be sure to check our website and theirs.
Money from Tennessee and North Carolina is being contributed to re-open Great Smoky Mountains National Park for at least five days as the federal government shutdown drags on.
Tennessee, on the western edge of the park, is contributing $350,500 and the State of North Carolina, to the park's east, is ponying up $75,000, the governors of the two states said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
The park will reopen today through Sunday.
Mid-October is peak tourism season for the park and surrounding communities. Great Smoky Mountains is the country's most visited national park with 9.6 million visitors in 2012, the AP says.
North Carolina is contributing money to pay the park's operational costs from money already allocated for tourism advertising. Tennessee is using a tourism grant for about 80 percent of its share and money from Sevier and Blount counties for the rest.
Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, estimates nearly $1 million in consumer spending is lost in North Carolina each day Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed, according to the North Carolina governor's statement.
The statement also says the governor is exploring options for opening the eight other national parks in North Carolina during the shutdown.
The National Park Service's Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile road through North Carolina's mountains and into Virginia, is open to traffic, and some privately operated facilities, such as the Pisgah Inn, are open.
The federal government shutdown began at midnight September 30, the end of the fiscal year, after Congress failed to pass a budget or temporary funding legislation. All non-essential services have ceased, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed.
Officials with various federal outdoor recreation agencies are spending today telling people that many of their sites are closed because of the federal government shutdown.
However, among the National Forests in North Carolina, several campgrounds in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests will remain open because they are operated by private concessionaires, a news release advises.
In the Nantahala National Forest, they are: Black Mountain Campground, Briar Bottom Group Camp, Carolina Hemlocks Recreation, Cove Creek Campground, Davidson River Campground, Kimsey Creek Group Campground, Kuykendall Group Campground, Lake Powhatan Recreation Area, North Mills River Recreation Area, Sunburst Recreation Area and White Pines Group Campground.
In the Pisgah National Forest, they are: Cliffside Day Use Area, Van Hook Glade Campground and the Standing Indian / Kimsey Creek / Hurricane Creek Recreation Complex.
Visitors may still use undeveloped recreational areas in the national forests, the news release says. But, no restrooms or trash collection are available. Only essential Forest Service employees will continue working; volunteers are not active.
The Forest Service is canceling Forest Festival Day scheduled for Saturday, October 5, at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan revision workshop scheduled for October 5 at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville.
"Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed [including nine in North Carolina] and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov," is the sole message available at the National Park Service website this afternoon, referring people to the Department of the Interior.
Pages for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs in North Carolina go to a page that says: "Because of the federal government shutdown, all Corps lakes are closed and Corps Lakes webpages are not operating. For more information, go to http://www.usace.army.mil."
The federal government shut down at midnight September 30, the end of the fiscal year, after Congress failed to pass a budget or temporary funding legislation. All non-essential services have ceased, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed without knowing when they will return to work.
Republicans want to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as part of a funding bill, and Democrats in the Senate have blocked them from doing so.
A study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has concluded that a week in the woods can cure your insomnia.
Apparently, staying away from artificial light resets our circadian clocks, the 24-hour biological rhythms that govern our sleep-wake cycle and other important biological functions, says Michale Breus' Insomnia Blog. All the study participants - some night owls and some early risers - saw their sleep patterns align with the natural cycle of day and night by the end of two separate camping trips.
We learned about the Insomnia blog post through the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
State parks in North Carolina offer camping at 29 parks and recreation areas, including family-friendly campgrounds and backwoods camping.
But there are many, many more camping opportunities on public lands across North Carolina, including hundreds of sites for family and wilderness National Forest camping, as well as camping at:
* Five National Parks
* W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir, a U.S. Corps of Engineers Project
* Seven Department of Defense installations, including Smith Lake at Fort Bragg, which welcomes civilians
* Bladen Lakes State Forest at Elizabethtown
* Apalachia Reservoir in Murphy, a Tennessee Valley Authority site.
In addition to camping opportunities, Carolina Outdoors Guide has information about hiking and other recreational opportunities near your campground so you can get in a day of exercise and fun, which will also help you sleep.
Morrow Mountain State Park, below, is one of 29 N.C. state parks that offer camping. Morrow Mountain also offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, fishing, boating and more. Click on the photo for more information about Morrow Mountain.