Sherpa Guides > Georgia Mountains > Appendices > Southern Appalachian Areas

Southern Appalachian Areas

In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Protection Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas designated by Congress consist of federally owned land preserved in its natural state. Thus, in areas designated as wilderness, certain activities such as road building, timber harvesting, motor vehicle use, mining, and dam construction are prohibited. Permitted uses include hiking, fishing, camping, nature study, canoeing, horseback riding, and, in Forest Service wilderness areas, hunting. Wilderness not only provides backcountry recreation opportunities, but also protects high-quality watersheds and fisheries, old growth wildlife habitat, and visual beauty.

The only two areas from the Southeast included in the Wilderness Act of 1964 were Shining Rock and Linville Gorge in western North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. For a decade, these two areas were the Southeast's only national forest wildernesses. Other areas proposed for wilderness designation were not considered by the Forest Service as sufficiently primitive.

In response to broad grass-roots support, Congress passed the Eastern Wilderness Act of 1975, which established the principle that areas that regain their natural, primitive character can and do qualify as wilderness. This act also established the Cohutta and Ellicott Rock wildernesses in Georgia.

During a process called "RARE II" in the late 1970s, the Forest Service identified over 200,000 acres of additional eligible wilderness in the Chattahoochee National Forest. In 1984 and 1986, Congress established the Rich Mountain, Raven Cliffs, Tray Mountain, Southern Nantahala, and Brasstown wildernesses and expanded the Cohutta and Ellicott Rock wildernesses. In 1991 Congress passed the Chattahoochee Forest Protection Act, which added to the Brasstown Wilderness and created the Blood Mountain and Mark Trail wildernesses. This act also designated the 7,100-acre Coosa Bald National Scenic Area and established the 23,330-acre Springer Mountain National Recreation Area (which was later renamed after Ed Jenkins, the longtime Congressional representative from this mountain district and the bill's lead sponsor).

Many other outstanding areas need wilderness designation, especially since the Forest Service projects that demand for wilderness recreation will soon outstrip available opportunities in the southern Appalachians. As noted in the following appendix, the current forest plan opens up most of these potential wildernesses to possible timber production and related road construction that may degrade their wildland value. Fortunately, however, an upcoming revision to the forest plan this decade will study eligible areas for possible wilderness recommendations, which will result in continued protection. Some top candidates for future wildernesses or other special area designations include additions to Raven Cliffs and Southern Nantahala Wilderness, Mountaintown, Kelly Ridge, Rock Gorge, Wolf Knob, the Rocky Face and John's Mountain areas on the Armuchee Ranger District, and Rabun Bald.

North Georgia has 10 wilderness areas totaling 114,616 acres. One, the Cohutta, overlaps into Tennessee; its "sister" wilderness, Big Frog, has 89 acres in Georgia. The Southern Nantahala Wilderness is almost equally divided between North Carolina and Georgia. Ellicott Rock along the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is split among Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Check with the local ranger for regulations regarding the use of horses, normally permitted except on the Appalachian Trail. Problems of management such as signs, parking, trail maintenance, and emergency evacuation procedures are being addressed by local Forest Service rangers for each wilderness area.

   Big Frog
   Blood Mountain
   Ellicott Rock
   Mark Trail
   Raven Cliffs
   Rich Mountains
   Southern Nantahala
   Tray Mountain
   114,616 Total

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