Great Balsam and Plott Balsam Mountains

Located within Jackson and Haywood counties, the Great Balsams and Plott Balsam Mountains contain a wide diversity of endangered wildlife and fragile ecosystems. Nearly 3,000 acres of old growth forest have been identified here. These mountains are home to the Richland Balsam overlook, which at 6,053 feet is the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Wildlife Corridors and Drinking Water

Located between the growing towns of Sylva to the west and Waynesville to the east, the Great Balsams and Plott Balsam Mountains include many valuable tracts of land which are at high risk of development. This area also serves as a critical wildlife corridor (the “Balsam Bridge”) between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee tribal lands to the north and 20,000 acres of Nantahala National Forest wilder – ness lands to the south. The increasing development pressure that the area is experiencing threatens habitat for wildlife, drinking water for local residents and the scenic vistas which drive the local tourism economy.

Drinking Water

In the Plott Balsams, Dill’s Creek serves as the primary water supply for residents of Sylva, while the Allen Creek watershed in the Great Balsams serves as water supply for Waynesville. Protection of the land within the Balsam Mountains safe – guards drinking water supplies as well as some of the most productive trout habitat in the Southern Appalachians.

Wildlife Diversity

The area’s fragile natural habitat types include spruce-fir, productive northern hardwood and cove forests, as well as boulder fields and high-elevation bogs. The area serves as host to more than 10 species of plants and animals that are state or federally endangered. These imperiled species include small whorled pogonia, Carolina northern flying squirrel, Indiana myotis bat and northern saw-whet owl. It is also an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Economic Vitality

The Balsam Mountains serve as the scenic backdrop for more than 20 miles of the Blue Ridge Park – way, which winds through the area as it crosses from national parkland to the north to national forest land to the south. Visitors to the Park – way and other natural areas in the Balsam Mountains contribute significantly to the area’s economy.
The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy, with help from government agencies, have protected more than 11,500 acres in eight locations within the Great Balsams and Plott Balsam Mountains. Protection of these tracts has come about through outright land purchases or the acquisition of development rights via purchase or donation.
The North Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and other data sources are being used to set priorities for future land and habitat protection.

How You Can Help

There are few ways that you can leave a greater legacy than through land conservation. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to preserve the magnificent landscape of the Great Balsam and Plott Balsam Mountains. Each donation brings us one step closer to conserving this imperiled high-elevation landscape.



Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
34 Wall St., Suite 502, Asheville, NC 28801

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Conservation Trust for North Carolina
1028 Washington St., Raleigh, NC 27605,
919-828-4199 x16

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Mainspring Conservation Trust
PO Box 1148, Franklin, NC 28744
828-524-2711 x 204