When we closed on the 357-acre Yellow Mountain Gateway tract in Avery County, we preserved more than unspoiled streams, wildlife habitat, and working lands. We opened a way for future generations to connect with the rich history of Avery County.
The Yellow Mountain Gateway is one of those rare treasured jewels — a large contiguous swath of mountain land handed down generation after generation. Rather than risk it being subdivided in the future, eight heirs of the Vance & Odom families came together to sell the tract to SAHC, ensuring that it will remain protected forever.
“The view of the two ‘spears’ that form Spear Tops mountain as you drive south on US Highway 19 E from Plumtree to Spear is as iconic a mountain view as you can imagine,” said landowner Risa Larsen. “The Vance and Odom families are pleased to know that with the sale of our family farm to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that view will never change. Ancestors of the family actually lived on the farm in the late 1800s, and subsequently our families have enjoyed decades of picnics and hikes on the farm. The multiple creeks that run through the property provided a cool spot in the heat of the summer and lovely waterfalls of various heights as theyrun down to join the North Toe River.”
Known as ‘Spear Farm’ by the family, the newly protected tract is situated in the center of the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area and can potentially provide public access to the state natural area in the future. The tract rises to 4700 ft on Spear Tops Mountain and also includes a lower pasture that fronts on Hwy 19 E. SAHC protected two adjoining tracts in 2011 and 2012, and this new conservation success completes our protection of the iconic Spear Tops Mountain.
The property is crossed by a main branch of Justice Creek and several smaller tributaries. The quality of clean headwater stream sources in the North Toe watershed made this tract a conservation priority for clean water. The impressive 100 ft. waterfall on Justice Creek, known as Cutler Falls by the Vance and Odom families, will be accessible to the public in the future, thanks to our acquisition of the Yellow Mountain Gateway.
Working agricultural lands on the recently protected tract include winter pastures for cattle herds that graze at Big Yellow Mountain in the summer. Preserving this land and allowing their winter grazing grounds to remain intact supports our commitment to management of the grassy balds in the Roan. SAHC plans to hold the tract with the intent to transfer it to North Carolina when state funds become available.