Category: National Forests
Forest Service officials temporarily banned target shooting in the Croatan National Forest earlier this month but want to meet with the public to discuss the problem they say has prompted hundreds of complaints.
The meeting is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, July 29, at the ranger station off of U.S. 70 southeast of New Bern.
In a news release today, the Forest Service said it has responded to hundreds of complaints from citizens and to dozens of incidents involving target shooting in the Croatan over the past year. "Additionally, natural resource damage from the targeting of trees and other vegetation has increased significantly across the forest," it says.
The Forest Service instituted a 120-day emergency closure order July 13, which bans discharging a firearm in the forest "unless it occurs in the lawful taking of wildlife."
The prohibition will be in effect through November 10.
In the prior announcement, the Forest Service said officials were working to identify potential locations for a shooting range in the Croatan, which would be the first in the forest.
Officials were also "meeting with local military installation leaders and other community organizations and leaders to raise awareness about the issue." The Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point is adjacent to the forest in Havelock.
If you can't make the public meeting about target shooting, you can send comments to: [email protected] or contact the Croatan Ranger District office at (252) 638-5628.
The Forest Service announced completion of access to an 80-foot waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest near Marion last week.
The Falls Branch Trail is now a paved half-mile walk to a wheelchair accessible observation deck at the foot of Toms Creek Falls (below). The Forest Service news release calls it "a breathtaking 80-foot cascade."
The small recreation area also provides parking off of Huskins Branch Road in McDowell County.
Huskins Branch is 12 miles from I-40 exit 85 on U.S. 221 North. The recreation area is 1.2 miles farther to the left.
Two coastal campgrounds are providing upgraded options for camping near the beach in North Carolina.
The U.S. Forest Service said today renovations at Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest will be finished in time to open the campground for Memorial Day weekend.
A news release says the project included replacing the campground's electrical, septic and water systems, rebuilding 13 campsites and relocating the camp host sites and the dump station "to more efficient and camper-accessible locations."
The $700,000 project began last September 30. At the time, the Forest Service expected it to require closing the campground for five months.
Cedar Point Campground (below) and the Tideland Trail, which has also been closed, will reopen Thursday, May 21, according to Recreation.gov, the camping reservation site. Reservations may be made now.
Cedar Point, near Swansboro, is the most popular campground in the Croatan National Forest. It has 40 campsites, flush toilets and showers, electrical hookups, potable water and a picnic area. The Cedar Point Recreation Area provides opportunity for fishing, wading, boating, hiking trails and other family-friendly activities.
Near Wilmington, Carolina Beach State Park's campground will upgrade eight of its 83 existing "primitive" campsites to include water, sewer and electricity hookups, and will install small camper cabins at four other sites, according to the Star News.
The proposed cabins, "similar to those seen at KOA Campgrounds," will have small heating/air conditioner units and electricity but no indoor plumbing, the newspaper says.
The park was still seeking contractors for the project when the Star News report was published earlier this month, and no start or completion dates were set.
Campsites at Carolina Beach State Park currently have picnic tables and grills, and flush toilets, hot showers and potable water are at centrally located bath houses. Two campsites are wheelchair accessible.
Carolina Beach State Park also has a marina on the Cape Fear River at Snow's Cut, a visitors center and opportunities for fishing, hiking, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and picnicking. It is also well-known as one of few homes to the Venus' flytrap, butterwort and bladderwort carnivorous plants.
Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest, below, is to reopen in time for Memorial Day Weekend after a seven-month renovation project. Click on the photo for more information about the Cedar Point Recreation Area.
Pisgah National Forest officials are taking precautions against bear encounters in a popular area of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area by temporarily closing it to overnight camping and ordering the use of bear canisters when camping in adjacent areas.
Officials say in a news release that a bear "entered a tent and removed a hiker's backpack" in the Graveyard Fields area.
Graveyard Fields is a high valley area within the Shining Rock Wilderness popular for dispersed primitive camping. The valley is accessible from a newly renovated Blue Ridge Parkway overlook at Milepost 418.8 and a 2.3 mile loop trail that goes to three waterfalls. The Beech Gap (Section 6) portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail also passes through the valley.
The area will remain open for day use, but the Forest Service will monitor the area "over the next few weeks" to determine when to reopen it for overnight camping, the news release says.
It is not unusual to suspend camping in the Shining Rock area because of bear activity. The entire wilderness area was closed to camping because of a series of incidents in October 2012.
Overnight campers are also being required to use bear canisters in the adjacent areas of the Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Sam's Knob and Flat Laurel Creek. The Forest Service has received numerous reports of bears acquiring food from backcountry campers in the area.
Canisters must be commercially made and constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears, the release says.
"In springtime bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips," Pisgah District Ranger Derek Ibarguen says in the release. "Black bear attacks on people are rare but when we do have encounters we do our best to break the cycle of success so the bears do not become habituated to humans - protecting both our visitors and the bears."
Campers are also advised to not leave food unattended and to clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of campsites.
A news release says the $700,000 project is to include:
+ Replacing an aging and failing sewer system.
+ Relocating the sewer dump station for RVs.
+ Upgrading the electrical system at campsites from a 30-amp to a 50-amp system.
+ Renovating campsites.
+ Renovating the toilet and shower building, including water-saving fixtures.
Money for the project comes from general Forest Service appropriations.
Work is to begin September 30, and the campground will likely remain closed for five months, the release says. Normally the campground is open year-round.
Cedar Point Campground, in the larger Cedar Point Recreation Area, has 40 handicapped-accessible sites with electricity, flush toilets and showers, and picnic grounds.
Cedar Point is near Cape Carteret on the White Oak River, which is accessible via a boat ramp and fishing pier, and is home to the Tideland National Recreation Trail.
(Note - the news release received by email was not immediately available online.)
Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest, below, is to be closed from the end of September through February for $700,000 worth of renovations. Click on the photo for more information about the campground and the Cedar Point Recreation Area.
Incorrect and prohibited use of the Croatan National Forest's Island Creek Trail has caused "significant damage" to the picturesque hiking trail, the National Forest Service said today.
"The wonderful walk in the woods named the Island Creek Forest Walk has experienced illegal use recently from mountain bikers and horseback riders using this trail," District Ranger Jim Gumm says in a news release issued today.
"The trail was not designed or approved for such uses, which have unfortunately caused significant damage to the fragile ecosystem."
The Forest Service recently replaced all trail markers and reinstalled approved-use signs at Island Creek, according to the release. "The Forest Service asks visitors to help protect Island Creek Forest Walk from further damage by using it for its designed purpose," it says.
When Carolina Outdoors Guide was at Island Creek a year ago, we noted the sign below taped to a tree indicating additional loops and use of the area for single-track biking.
Croatan recreation staff officer Dennis Foster told us last year the sign was put up by mountain bikers who live nearby, and that a study of the feasibility for biking in the area was underway. He was not immediately available this afternoon.
The news release says mountain biking is permitted in the Croatan's Neuse River Recreation Area (Flanners Beach) and on Forest Service roads, and horseback riding is permitted on the Pine Cliff area equestrian trails.
The Island Creek Trail is a half-mile loop interpretive trail in the Polloksville area with signs identifying many common and more obscure trees, including the yellow poplar at left below and the umbrella magnolia. Click on either photo below for more about the Island Creek Trail.
The Forest Service will begin planning for "management of non-motorized and motorized recreation trails" in the Uwharrie National Forest with a workshop open to the public on September 18 in Troy, which is in Montgomery County.
Today's news release announcing the meeting says developing recommendations for a comprehensive trail management plan for the Uwharrie could take a year.
It calls upon members of trail-user groups, local community and ecotourism representatives, and unaffiliated individuals to join the planning process.
The meeting is to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Garner Center, 210 Burnette St., Troy.
Improving trials is one focus of the Uwharrie's Land and Resource Management Plan, which is a 15-year guide to use of the forest's 50,814 acres that was adopted in 2012.
There are more than 120 miles of trails in the Uwharrie. The Badin Lake Recreation Area has some 17 miles of OHV trails in four systems, about 20 miles of Wood Run Mountain Bike Trails, about 32 miles of bridle trails (and the Canebrake Horse Camp), the 5.6-mile Badin Lake Trail loop and other trails.
"(U)se of forest trails in North Carolina is increasing every year. Resources used to maintain trails have been static or decreasing," the release says.
As we round the corner from Labor Day into autumn, those looking forward to cooler weather outdoors have begun posting fall leaf color guides and forecasts.
The National Forest Service released its annual fall color guide to the places to find the best fall color in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in western North Carolina. There, leaves begin to turn at the highest elevation in late September and early October. Colors peak in mid-October and move to the lowest elevations by late October and early November.
There's color everywhere in the mountains once the show gets underway, but the National Forest's recommendations for leaf viewing are:
High elevation (above 4,500 feet)
* Cherohala Skyway in Graham County
* Wayah Bald and Wine Spring Creek area in Macon County
* Big Butt Trail in the Mount Mitchell area of Yancey County
* Roan Mountain in Mitchell County. The road to Roan Gardens (from Carvers Gap) will close in early October, the Forest Service advises. Take in fall color by hiking the Appalachian Trail either direction or walking on the road.
Middle elevation (2,500 to 4,500 feet)
* Chunky Gal Mountains from Standing Indian to Shooting Creek along US 64 in Macon and Clay Counties
* Along NC 28 and 143 within Graham County from Fontana Village (see also Fontana Dam) to Stecoah Gap, within the Moses Creek drainage along Forest Service Road 4651 in the Roy A. Taylor forest in Jackson County (see also Wayehutta ATV System)
* Along US 19E in the Poplar area of Yancey County from the Cane River to Spivey Gap
* Along Curtis Creek Road (FSR 482) and US 70 in McDowell County, and the Harper Creek area in Avery County
Low elevation (Below 2,500 feet)
* Joe Brown Highway in Cherokee County
* US 64 in eastern Clay County
* US 441 in southern Macon County
* NC 28 in Swain County near Fontana Lake (see also Fontana Dam)
* US 25-70 in the Hot Springs area
* Along NC 181 and the other forest roads in the Steeles Creek area in Burke and Caldwell counties.
In May, the Forest Service's Southern Research Station and National Forests in North Carolina introduced the Forest Trail Explorer site, which allows users to browse maps of trails in the Tsali and the Jackrabbit Mountain recreation areas in the Nantahala, as well as portions of the Appalachian Trail in the forest.
Information on the site includes trail type, length, difficulty, elevation, and images from fly-overs of some trails. In addition, users can download files of the trails and view them on their computers or tablets using Google Earth. The site is designed to work on smartphones and other mobile devices.
Elsewhere, Romantic Asheville says some glimpses of fall color are showing already but little color change should be expected this week.
Fall Color Guy Howie Neufeld, an Appalachian State University biology professor, told The Charlotte Observer that sunny and relatively cool conditions in late summer bring vivid colors during early October in the highest elevations and early November in the Piedmont.
But, according to Neufield, late-summer's warm and wet weather this year could push leaf color changes to later in October and make them more muted.
Kathy Mathews, an associate professor of biology at Western Carolina University, says in her annual prediction that we should expect a long-lasting leaf display in the mountains, but with spotty color development.
“The rainy spring months this year portend somewhat muted pigments on the leaves in the fall,” she says in a WCU news release. “Trees that produce red leaves, including sourwood, red maple and dogwood, perform best in dry conditions. Therefore, we may see fewer brilliant reds during the peak of fall color change.”
The potential for the prohibition first came up in April 2013, when officials said the idea was a result of visitor complaints and vandalism at the site.
Today the Forest Service said in a news release that officials had reviewed complaints of "drunken behavior at the site" that had "diminished the quality of the recreational experience and made the area unfriendly to families." The release also reiterates that facilities at the recreation area have been vandalized.
Fishers Landing has nine tent sites, access to riverbank fishing, vault toilets, running water, fire rings and picnic tables. It is about eight miles south of New Bern on U.S. 70.
The ban under consideration would prohibit alcohol at Fishers Landing for five years unless it was rescinded earlier, according to the news release.
Comments may be emailed to [email protected]; mailed to Croatan National Forest, 141 E. Fisher Road, New Bern, N.C. 28560; or faxed to 252-637-9113. They must be received by September 4 to be considered.
People who cannot or will not drink responsibly are prompting a ban on alcohol at Fishers Landing (below), a small Croatan National Forest campground on the Neuse River south of New Bern. Click on either photo below for more about Fishers Landing.
As part of our recent visit to the Boone / Blowing Rock area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, of course we visited Linville Falls and we were pleased to see work in progress to make visitors' experience there better.
The Blue Ridge Park Foundation is expanding the most easily accessed overlook at the waterfalls and will add interpretive material to explain the Linville Falls thrust fault. "This area lies within the geologically significant 'Grandfather Mountain Window' and is the beginning point of the Linville Gorge," the foundation says. "This important site deserves to be both viewed and interpreted for the public."
The Foundation is spending $21,500 to complete this work. For most people, the biggest benefit of the project will be that it significantly enlarges the crowded upper falls overlook.
So far, the most visible effect of the project is construction of pedestals for the rail fence that will be moved to encircle the entire rock ledge on the upper falls basin.
As it is, the upper falls overlook, which is the closest to the area's access site on the Blue Ridge Parkway, can get extremely crowded.
The twin upper falls:
Check out our new guide to Linville Falls, with photos of the lower falls (below) and the Dugger's Creek waterfall.