Nantahala National Forest

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Nantahala National Forest
Cullasaja Falls, Nantahala National Forest, in Macon County, North Carolina
Map showing the location of Nantahala National Forest
Map showing the location of Nantahala National Forest
LocationNorth Carolina, United States
Nearest cityFranklin, NC
Coordinates35°14′02″N 83°33′33″W / 35.233842°N 83.559265°W / 35.233842; -83.559265Coordinates: 35°14′02″N 83°33′33″W / 35.233842°N 83.559265°W / 35.233842; -83.559265
Area531,270 acres (2,150.0 km2)[1]
EstablishedFebruary 6, 1907[2]
Governing bodyU.S. Forest Service
WebsiteNantahala National Forest

The Nantahala National Forest (/ˌnæntəˈhlə/),[3] established in 1920,[4] is a national forest located in the American state of North Carolina. The word "Nantahala" is a Cherokee word, meaning "Land of the Noonday Sun."[4] In some spots, the sun reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the forest only when it is high overhead at midday. This was part of the homeland of the historic Cherokee and their indigenous ancestors, who have occupied the region for thousands of years.

The Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto explored the area in 1540, as did English colonist William Bartram in the 18th century. The Nantahala River flows through the Nantahala National Forest. During the late 1990s domestic terror suspect Eric Rudolph evaded capture for several years by the FBI and ATF by hiding in extremely remote portions of this forest.

The Nantahala National Forest is administered by the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture. The forest is managed together with the other three North Carolina National Forests (Croatan, Pisgah, and Uwharrie) from common headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina.


Picnic site in the park, 1937.

Nantahala National Forest is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina,[4] lying in the mountains and valleys of western North Carolina. The terrain varies in elevation from 5,800 feet (1,767.8 m) at Lone Bald in Jackson County, to 1,200 feet (365.8 m) in Cherokee County along the Hiwassee River below the Appalachia Dam. It is the home of many western NC waterfalls. The last part of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway travels through this forest. The total area under management is 531,270 acres (830.11 sq mi; 2,149.97 km2). In descending order of land area it is located in parts of Macon, Graham, Cherokee, Jackson, Clay, and Swain counties.


The Weeks Act was presented to Congress in hopes of preserving forests with government funds being used to purchase both public and private lands. In previous years, the lands were occupied my logging companies. These companies had often stripped the land of its resources before selling to maximize profits and evade taxation.[5]


Nantahala National Forest is divided into three Ranger Districts: The Cheoah Ranger District, the Nantahala Ranger District, and the Tusquitee Ranger District. All district names come from the Cherokee language.[4]

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Cheoah Ranger District[edit]

The Cheoah Ranger District has 120,110 acres (187.7 sq mi; 486.1 km2) in Graham and Swain Counties, and it is headquartered in Robbinsville, North Carolina.[6] The district's name, Cheoah, is the Cherokee word for "otter", because the lands adjoin four large mountain reservoirs and contain numerous streams.

The Appalachian Trail winds through the Cheoah Ranger District after leaving the Nantahala Ranger District on its way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The district also contains the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.

Nantahala Ranger District[edit]

The Nantahala Ranger District is the largest of the forest's districts, covering an area of about 250,000 acres (390.6 sq mi; 1,011.7 km2) in Macon, Jackson and Swain counties.[7] It was formed in 2007 by consolidating the former Highlands Ranger District and Wayah Ranger District.[8] The headquarters are in Franklin, North Carolina. Part of the district is adjacent to the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

This district's features include the 5,499-foot (1,676.10 m) Standing Indian Mountain, the Nantahala Gorge and Wayah Bald.

Four long distance trails pass through the district: the Appalachian, Bartram, Foothills, and Mountains-to-Sea Trails.

The district contains the 40,000-acre (62.5 sq mi; 161.9 km2) Roy Taylor Forest[9][10] located in Jackson County, southwest of and adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, that it acquired in 1981. The rugged and scenic Tuckasegee Gorge is within the Roy Taylor Forest.

During the consolidation, all the lands of the former Highlands Ranger District within Transylvania County, were transferred to the Pisgah Ranger District.

Tusquitee Ranger District[edit]

The 158,348-acre (247.4 sq mi; 640.8 km2) Tusquitee Ranger District is the forest's second largest district, and it is located in far southwestern tip of North Carolina, within Cherokee and Clay Counties.[11] Tusquitee is Cherokee for "where the water dogs laughed," and the district is headquartered in Murphy, North Carolina.

The district's features include the Hiawassee River, Jackrabbit Mountain as well as Lake Chatuge, Lake Hiawassee, Lake Appalachia. All the lakes on or bordering the Tusquitee Ranger District are managed by TVA. The highest point on the district is Tusquitee Bald (5,280 feet (1,609 m)) located in Clay County.

Wilderness areas[edit]

Three wilderness areas are located within the Nantahala National Forest. Ellicott Rock Wilderness is located near Highlands, North Carolina at the intersection of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia state lines, with 3,900 acres (16 km²) in the North Carolina portion. The Southern Nantahala Wilderness includes 10,900 acres (17.0 sq mi; 44.1 km2) in the North Carolina portion and lies in the Tusquitee and Nantahala Ranger Districts. Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness which includes another 13,100 acres (53.0 km2) in North Carolina. These wilderness areas provide an opportunity for solitude in a rugged, natural setting. The Forest manages two Off - Highway Vehicle areas. The most famous being Tellico OHV area located in the Tusquitee Ranger District an additional OHV area is located in the Nantahala Ranger District. Many miles of trout water exist in the forest.

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest within the National Forest was dedicated on July 30, 1936 to poet Joyce Kilmer.

Forests and old growth[edit]

Several areas of old-growth forest have been identified in the Nantahala National Forest, totaling some 30,800 acres (125 km2).[12] The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness in particular contains nearly 6,000 acres (24 km2) of old-growth forest.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Land Areas of the National Forest System" (PDF). U.S. Forest Service. January 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  2. ^ "The National Forests of the United States" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  3. ^ Talk Like A Tarheel Archived 2013-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, from the North Carolina Collection's website at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  4. ^ a b c d "Nantahala National Forest". US Forest Service. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  5. ^ Spencer, Marci (2017). Nantahala National Forest. ISBN 978-1-4396-6219-9. OCLC 1132371691.
  6. ^ "Cheoah Ranger District". US Forest Service. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  7. ^ "Nantahala Ranger District". US Forest Service. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  8. ^ "Forest Service Approves Highlands- Wayah Ranger District Consolidation" (PDF). US Forest Service. February 27, 2007. pp. 1–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-27. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  9. ^ "Art Register for Roy Taylor Forest part of Nantahala National Forest". University of North Carolina at Asheville. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  10. ^ PUBLIC LAW 98-11 —MAR. 28, 1983 97 STAT. 51 . 1983 – via Wikisource.
  11. ^ "Tusquitee Ranger District". US Forest Service. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  12. ^ Mary Byrd Davis (23 January 2008). Old Growth in the East: A Survey. North Carolina.

External links[edit]