In September 2019, SAHC secured 135 acres of important high elevation habitat in the Highlands of Roan. This tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and existing SAHC preserves, creating a contiguous swath of permanently protected, botanically rich forests on the slopes of Fork Mountain. We are incredibly grateful to all of our supporters for helping to conserve this remarkable place!
When SAHC’s founders first laid plans 50 years ago to preserve the landscape of the Roan, they didn’t have the technology we use today in Google Earth or Geographic Information System mapping. However, they certainly possessed keen intuition and first-hand familiarity with the land. Now, another of the priority parcels they identified has been permanently secured for future generations.
The newly acquired Gutches Creek property joins our Fork Mountain and Yellow Spot preserves to create an SAHC-owned area of more than 563 acres on the southeastern slopes of Fork Mountain, adjoining thousands of acres of National Forest in the Roan. It is just two miles west of the beloved Roan Rhododendron Gardens.
“With elevations rising above 4,700 feet and numerous springs, seeps, and streams, the Gutches Creek property is a biological gem,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett.
At least 10 state-listed rare plants and 6 state-listed ecological community types exist on the property, according to initial surveys. The land’s high elevation red oak forest, northern hardwood forest, and rich cove boulderfields are all high quality examples of rare natural communities. The preserve creates a haven for forest interior birds.
“Gutches Creek rushes boldly down the mountain through massive boulders, evoking a sense of wonder,” continues Marquette. “This property forms a stunning, natural amphitheater surrounding Gutches Creek, made out of some of the largest boulder fields that I have seen on any of SAHC’s conservation properties. With a historic homestead and sections of rock wall that have been here for more than 100 years, this place really does give the impression that you have stepped into another time.”
SAHC plans to own and manage the property for the long term as wildlife habitat.