Southern Nantahala Wilderness

The Southern Nantahala Wilderness is managed as part of the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina and the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. It includes 24,515 acres at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The elevation ranges from 2,400 feet to 5,499 feet on Standing Indian Mountain. The area includes numerous peaks over 4,000 feet and is characterized by steep, rugged terrain dissected by numerous streams and drainages. These streams feed the Nantahala, Tallulah, and Hiwassee Rivers. The forest cover is dense and varies from spruce-fir trees and grass-heath bards along the high ridges to mixed hardwoods.

The Southern Nantahala Wilderness was created by the 1984 North Carolina Wilderness Act and the 1984 Georgia Wilderness Act.

Area History

To its original inhabitants, the Cherokee Indians, the Blue Ridge Mountains were known as"the Great Blue Hills of God." The Cherokee heritage is evident today in the name of the river and surrounding mountains- Nantahala, "land of the noonday sun."

With the advent of the white man, logging played an important part in the history of the area. Practically all of the Standing Indian Basin has been logged at one time or another. Most of the area was owned by the Ritter Lumber Company in the early 1900's. Rainbow Springs on the Nantahala River was the base of operation, with a bandsaw mill, residences, store, post office, school and boarding house. The main logging camp was located at the present Standing Indian Campground.

Logging was done with narrow-gauge steam locomotives, with the main rail line following the banks of the Nantahala River. The old grade is still evident on either side of the campground, as are the spur lines along some of the side creeks.

The Forest Service purchased the land in 1920. However, Ritter reserved the timber cutting rights for 20 years after the purchase date. Park Creek was the first drainage logged. The other drainages were cut in the following succession-Kimsey Creek, Long Branch, Bearpen Creek, Little Indian Creek and Big Indian Creek.

Ritter logged the country by the "selective cut" system, which in reality was a commercial high-grading in which all good timber larger than 15 inches in diameter was cut. Small trees, large defective trees, and poor lumber species were left standing. The Forest Service uses logging today to upgrade these residual timber stands to more productive quality. Stands of old, defective trees are cut to allow room for new, healthy trees. Young stands are thinned to provide growing space for the better specimens. This work is scheduled over a long period of time, on an orderly basis, to provide a sustained yield of forest products, both now and for the future.

For more information on trails in the Southern Nantahala and the adjacent Standing Indian Basin see the GORP information on Standing Indian Basin.

For more information contact: Nantahala National Forest.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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