Pisgah Ridge & Bethel Farming Community

rusty-painterAfter a steady climb from the Asheville area, the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches its crest and rides the high mountaintops at Pisgah Ridge along the Haywood/Jackson county line, winding through pristine headwaters, high biodiversity streams, mature forests, and high-altitude ridges. One of the most fertile and well-organized farming communities in the area, Bethel, lies just downstream on the Pigeon River. Also home to Cold Mountain, a landmark made famous by local author Charles Frazier’s popular novel, as well as the Cradle of Forestry, Pisgah National Forest, and Shining Rock Wilderness, this focus area boasts diverse recreational opportunities and biological rarities.

Wilderness Lands and a Farming Community, Side by Side

A significant supply of North Carolina drinking water originates at the top of these high peaks–the French Broad Watershed flows to the south and west of the Pisgah Mountain Range, the Little Tennessee Headwaters to the east. Combined, these watersheds supply over 340,000 people in North Carolina with their drinking water. Proceeding downstream on the Pigeon River, one quickly encounters Bethel. Bethel, a quiet multiple-generations-old farming community in Haywood County, has made itself a center of grassroots rural conservation work with 94% of residents wishing Bethel to remain a rural agricultural community (Bethel Rural Community Organization 2007).

Biologic Diversity

The focus area contains not only a vast ecological diversity due to the high number of intact natural communities, but it also boasts old growth forest remnants, high elevation bog complexes, sprucefir forests, and four federally endangered species including the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus), and Appalachian Elktoe Mussel (Alasmidonta raveneliana).

Cultural Heritage

Every year, Bethel Rural Community Organization celebrates and preserves the rich heritage of the Bethel Community through the Cold Mountain Tour. “Pinky” Inman, of Cold Mountain fame, is from this area and his gravesite is still visited today. In addition to the rich agricultural history, Pisgah Ridge is a birthplace of American Forestry. In the late 1800s, George Vanderbilt erected the Cradle of Forestry, site of the first US Forestry school.

Economic Significance

With Cold Mountain, Shining Rock Wilderness Area, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway all nearby, the community has a vested interest in keeping public lands pristine for tourism purposes. In addition, Bethel farmland continues to grow local produce, an increasingly important and valuable commodity as transportation prices continue to rise. Since 1999 the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, in partnership with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, has led in the protection of over 1,800 acres of pristine headwaters, high bio-diversity streams, mature forests and high altitude ridges, including key sites on Cold Mountain and around the Shining Rock Wilderness. SAHC has also made the farm community of Bethel a priority for its Farmland Protection Program, which seeks to preserve working landscapes and save family farms from development. The North Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and other data sources are being used to set priorities for land and habitat protection.


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 Pisgah Ridge and Bethel. Each donation brings us one step closer to conserving this food production resource and cultural gem for our great-grandchildren and beyond.


Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
34 Wall St., Suite 502, Asheville, NC 28801
828-253-0095 www.appalachian.org

CTNC logo
Conservancy Trust for North Carolina
1028 Washington St., Raleigh, NC 27605
919-828-4199 x16 www.ctnc.org