Hickory Nut Gorge

Hickory Nut Gorge is a national ecological treasure located 15 miles southeast of Asheville on the Blue Ridge escarpment. Its varied landscape creates a hotspot of biological diversity in the southeastern United States. Largely because of its extraordinary natural beauty, Hickory Nut Gorge is threatened by intensive second home development. The creation of one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, Chimney Rock, will permanently protect up to 6,000 acres of this exquisite landscape.

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Deep Gorges Support Ecological Diversity

Carved by the Rocky Broad River, the eight-mile Hickory Nut Gorge begins along the Eastern Continental Divide, plunges 1,800 feet past Chimney Rock and ends at Lake Lure. The gorge’s incredible biodiversity is born of its varied topography, unique weather, numerous caves, cascading falls and streams, intact watersheds and extensive forest blocks. Hickory Nut Gorge’s location, natural beauty and recreational opportunities make it highly susceptible to pressures from development and rapidly increasing land use.

Biological Diversity

Hickory Nut Gorge hosts 14 plant community type

s, seven of which are rare. It is home to 37 rare plant species and 14 rare animal species, such as the globally rare white irisette, state rare broadleaf coreopsis, state endangered green salamander and the Indiana bat – a species found in the world’s largest fissure cave located in the Gorge. The area’s high peaks and steep slopes host an array of avian species including the peregrine falcon and a number of neotropical migratory songbirds. The State Wildlife Action Plan emphasizes the need to protect the habitat of many special plants and animals that inhabit Hickory Nut Gorge.

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Scenic Significance

The new Chimney Rock State Park is being built around iconic Chimney Rock, World’s Edge and Rumbling Bald, place names that speak to the dramatic scenery found throughout Hickory Nut Gorge. Future acquisitions will protect the slopes and peaks above picturesque Lake Lure, protecting the scenery and habitat of one of North Carolina’s most dramatic gorges.

Economic Significance

The steep cliffs, rocky outcrops, cascading waterfalls and extensive forests of Hickory Nut Gorge make it a prominent recreational destination for rock climbers, birders, hikers, picnicking families, campers and mountain bikers. The new Chimney Rock State Park will attract visitors who wish to experience the wilderness beauty of the Gorge. Coupled with Lake Lure, Hickory Nut Gorge is one of North Carolina’s most popular tourist destinations. Faced with a recent rush of development around Lake Lure and along surrounding slopes and ridges, three land conservancies have partnered with the N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation to form the Hickory Nut Gorge Protection Partnership. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and The Nature Conservancy are working with a host of local partners to protect this rugged landscape by acquiring lands for the new Chimney Rock State Park and by working with landowners to secure permanent conservation agreements that will protect Hickory Nut Gorge for its natural denizens as well as its human residents and visitors.
Since 2005, the conservancies have acquired thousands of acres for the new park, beginning with the 1,568-acre, $16 million World’s Edge tract. In 2006, the N.C. Legislature appropriated $15 million for the purchase of Chimney Rock Park, and in 2007 the 996-acre park was purchased for $25 million, becoming the centerpiece of the new Chimney Rock State Park. Cane Creek Mountain and other smaller tracts have also been secured for the park, and the conservancies continue to negotiate acquisitions of other priority parcels to help the State build a 5- 6,000-acre park that permanently protects and provides public access to much of the Hickory Nut Gorge.

Leave Your Legacy

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 Hickory Nut Gorge. Each donation brings us one step closer to conserving this scenic and biological treasure for our great-grandchildren and beyond.

LAND TRUSTS SERVING HICKORY NUT GORGE

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Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
P. O. Box 2822, Hendersonville, NC 28793
828-697-5777 www.carolinamountain.org

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Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
P.O. Box 3023, Morganton, NC 28680
828-437-9930 www.foothillsconservancy.org