North Fork Catawba River & Upper Linville Gorge

Situated among some of the highest mountains in the Appalachian range, the Upper North Fork Catawba River and the Linville River in the Upper Linville Gorge contain vital drinking water for North Carolinians. As major tributaries in the Catawba River Basin, the most populous river basin in the state, the rivers help provide drinking water to over one million residents from the high mountains to the low-lying piedmont. The area also draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to scenic Linville Falls, Linville Gorge and Linville Caverns.

Vital Headwaters & Spectacular Wilderness Recreation

Incredible scenery, untouched wilderness, unique geology, significant waterways and a wealth of outdoor recreation: these superlatives highlight the vast resources of the watershed lands surrounding the North Fork Catawba River and the upper Linville River and Linville Gorge National Wilderness Area.

Biological Diversity

The rugged, varied terrain, unique landscape features and significant aquatic habitat of this area support more than 36 state rare species and five federal species of concern, along with two federal and six state significant natural heritage areas. Linville Caverns, a rare geological formation of limestone caverns, is the only known location of the Linville Caverns spider. Additions to public lands and conserving rare species habitat are strategic objectives of the State Wildlife Action Plan.

Cultural Heritage

The Catawba Indians, or “the people of the river”, and their relatives inhabited the Catawba Valley over 10,000 years ago. Evidence of their existence may be found at over 20 archaeological and historical sites clustered around Linville Falls, the Linville River and the North Cove area. The area is currently home to many multi-generation southern Appalachian families.

Economic Significance

State significant farming soils in the North Cove Community of the North Fork Catawba River have provided farmers the basis for a sol – id means of living for generations. The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, Linville Caverns, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway and National Park Service’s Revolutionary War “Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail” route and Linville River trout fishing attract tourists and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world and heavily contribute to the local economy.

At the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the new federal Scenic Byway – the Pisgah Loop, the upper Linville Gorge in Burke County and the North Fork of the Catawba River in McDowell County face increasing development pressures.

In 2004, Foothills Conservancy partnered with Conservation Trust for North Carolina to acquire, and convey to the National Park Service a scenic tract fronting nearly a mile of the Linville River across from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Linville Falls campground. Other tracts surrounding the upper Linville Gorge remain threatened by development.

In response, Foothills Conservancy has completed a riparian protection plan for the North Fork of the Catawba River and has also begun landowner outreach on key tracts surrounding the upper Linville Gorge. Foothills Conservancy is working with the National Park Service and Conservation Trust for North Carolina to identify and protect tracts along key segments of the National Park Service’s “Overmountain National Historic Victory Trail”. Additionally, the historic farming community of North Cove offers numerous opportunities for private conservation of significant farmland soils and agricultural heritage. In 2005, the Upper Linville Riparian Corridor Strategy was completed by Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC), identifying high priority river segments. BRC continues to implement the Riparian Corridor Strategy working to protect high quality riverfront tracts along the Linville River.

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 and critical waters of the North Fork Catawba River & Upper Linville Gorge.

Land Trusts Serving the North Fork Catawba River & Upper Linville Gorge

FCNC logo
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina
P.O. Box 3023
Morganton, NC 28680

Blue Ridge Conservancy
P.O. Box 568, Boone, NC 28607