Linville Gorge

In The Beautiful Southern Appalachian Mountain Range Is A Gorge Sometimes Called The Grand Canyon Of The East

Linville Gorge is found in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina, USA. Situated in Avery County North Carolina it is one of only two wilderness gorges in the southern United States, the other being Bald River Gorge in Tennessee.

The gorge was originally designated a "Wild Area" in 1951 but with the creation of the 1964 Wilderness Act it became one of the very first areas within the National Wilderness System.

It encompasses over 11,000 acres of dense hardwood and pine forests with many smaller trees and shrubs. These include beautiful wild rhododendron and Dogwood trees the blossom of which is the North Carolina State Flower. The whole area comes under the management of of the U.S. National Forest Service.

The gorge was named by local settlers in memory of the explorer William Linville and his son John who were slaughtered there by Cherokee Indians in 1766.

The cutting action of the Linville River was the force behind the creation of the gorge. From its source high up on Grandfather Mountain the river has cut its way in a southward direction entering the gorge at Linville Falls.

The Linville Gorge waterfalls are a very attractive ninety foot cascade of water that enters the gorge in a series of short falls.

The river then runs for over twelve miles, twisting and turning its way along the bottom of the gorge that it has created over thousands of years.In one of the many loops cut by the river is a wonderful rock formation. Known as Babel Tower, it soars 400 feet above the level of the water.

During those few miles it drops over 2,000 feet in height. It eventually enters Lake James, the centrepiece of the Lake James State Park. There are some wonderful North Carolina State Parks but this one is among the finest.

The boundaries of the gorge are formed by Linville Mountain to the west and the Jonas Ridge to the east. The eastern ridge has some notable formations such as Table Rock Mountain, Hawksbill Mountain and The Chimneys. The ridges to east and west are more than 1,400 feet above the level of the river at the bottom of the gorge.

Table Rock Mountain was a significantly important site for the Cherokee Indians who lived all around this area. To them Table Rock was a sort of altar for their ceremonies.

It is also easy to see why the Cherokee named the Linville Gorge "Eeseeoh" - in their language it meant River of Many Cliffs.

These cliffs are nowadays a magnet for rock climbers. Despite the difficulties of reaching many of the climbs they still flock here in large numbers, especially at weekends and holidays. The east rim of the gorge boasts two of the top climbing destinations in North Carolina. They are the
Table Rock and Shortoff Mountain.

The steepness of the ridges that form the east and west boundaries of Linville Gorge and the rugged nature of the terrain, meant that there was never any settlement in there. It also meant that the industrial logging that decimated thousands of acres of similar woodland in the eastern USA was never carried out here. Also, of the four major gorges found in the State, Linville Gorge NC is the only one not to have a road through it.

Therefore the only way in or out of the gorge is to hike. When you learn that the U.S. Marines and The Rangers do some of their wilderness training here then you know that the going will be pretty tough!

Hiking in the gorge is still very popular. Many walkers enjoy coming here to pit their abilities against nature. Passing through the the gorge is the
Mountains to Sea Trail,
one of the best hiking trails in North Carolina. However, every year around fifty hikers get lost or injured so it is wise to have the right equipment. Also backwoods skills such as map reading and navigating by compass are necessary.

Trails in the gorge are not the well marked level paths you might normally expect of an area run by the National Forest Service. As it is a designated wilderness area the trails are not maintained or signed along their whole length.

The major trail runs parallel to the river, but a little to its west. It`s called the Linville Gorge Trail, other pathways run down from the ridges to east and west to meet it. One, called the Cabin Trail descends a 1,000 feet in three quarters of a mile.

There are nearly forty miles of trails within Linville Gorge, most of them you could hike without seeing another soul, but two are popular. They are the Babel Tower trail and the Spence Ridge Trail. If you want to hike along these two then choose a mid-week day if you prefer solitude.

If you are thinking of visiting Linville Gorge and want a Trail Map, then you can get an excellent one from National Geographic Trails Illustrated.

As well as hiking and rock climbing in the Linville Gorge, other activities include primitive camping, hunting, fishing and bird watching. There are large numbers of game animals living in the woods such as Turkey, Grouse, Deer and Black Bear. The river has also been well stocked with several species of trout. However, in reality there is not a lot of hunting and fishing because of the difficulty in getting in and out of the gorge.

For most of the year permits are required for these activities, you can contact the authorities at this address for permits and any other information about the gorge. -
District Ranger, US Forest Service
Route 1,
NC 28761
Tel (828) 652-2144

Another thing to look out for is the rare Peregrine Falcon. They nest on some of the cliffs in the gorge. In fact where they are known to be nesting then any climbing at that site is banned until they have flown. There are a huge number of other species of birds to be seen in the gorge including the Cardinal, the North Carolina State Bird.

Visiting the Linville Gorge will not be for everybody, but those who do go will experience what America must have been like to the frontiersmen of two hundred years ago, a truly exciting wilderness.

Is Hiking In Linville Gorge Really As Difficult As Many People Say?

If you have been in Linville Gorge I would love to know your opinion. Can it really be as hard as people make out? Have your say.

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