Mount Mitchell State Park
The Very First Of The N.C. State Parks
Mount Mitchell State Park is located in The Black Mountains near the town of Burnsville in Yancey County, North Carolina. It is named for Mount Mitchell whose peak stands 6,684 feet above sea level and is therefore the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi.
At the summit of the mountain lies the grave of Elisha Mitchell after who the mountain was named. He was a science professor who calculated its height during the 1830`s. Incredibly modern science finds that he was only twelve feet out with his calculation. In 1857 he returned to the area and whilst hiking across the mountains fell forty feet into a waterfall. Knocked unconscious, he unfortunately drowned.
Established in 1915, Mount Mitchell was the very first of the N.C. State Parks and with its creation came the idea for a whole system of NC State parks.
The Mount Mitchell State Park protects an extensive range of rare plants. However, the forests of today are greatly different to those when Elisha Mitchell first visited the area. In those days Red Spruce covered the upper slopes of the mountain with Fraser Fir on all the heights above 6,000 feet. Below these higher levels there were Chestnut, Oak and Hickory trees in abundance.
But things have changed. During the 19th and early 20th centuries logging and then the Chestnut Blight ravaged these forests. Today scientists warn that a new danger exists. They calculate that the clouds and fog that cover Mount Mitchell 80% of the time are sometimes as acidic as vinegar!
This photograph shows the fir trees killed by the acid rain on Mount Mitchell
Today the forests of the Mount Mitchell State Park are made up of Maple, Ash, Birch, Cherry and Spruce and are home to over 90 species of birds including the Peregrine Falcon.
Visitors to this North Carolina State Park can enjoy hiking through miles of trails on the mountain. There are also several other peaks that reach to over 6,000 feet and they too have trails to them. If Mount Mitchell gets too busy you can still get great views from the top of these other mountains.
They are Mount Craig, only 37 feet shorter than Mount Michell, Mount Hallback, Balsam Cone and Big Tom. The last named mountain gets its name from a legendary local mountain guide,
Big Tom Wilson,
who actually found the body of Elisha Mitchell after he died.
At the summit of Mount Mitchell a new observation tower was built in 2009, there is also an exhibit hall, restaurant, gift shop and an interpretive centre.
Within the Mount Mitchell State Park there is a campground which is open all year round. It is for tents only and there are restrooms but no shower facilities. Backpack camping is allowed as long as you register using the forms provided at the trailheads or at the park office.
One word of warning. Black bears are common in these forests and you should read the instructions on how to act should you meet one It is also important that you know how to store food and deal with waste when you are hiking.
For further instructions on this subject, or to answer any other questions you may have about this, and any other of the N.C. State Parks,
will have all the answers.
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