Recreation impacts from Fred might linger for years

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“There are places where the whole character of the place can be different,” he said.

While other areas of the forest also suffered significant damage, the greatest impacts occurred on the Davidson River Corridor and the Pisgah Forest area from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the forest entrance and in the Big Ivy, Stony Fork and Coleman Boundary areas of the Appalachian Ranger District .

On Saturday, August 28, formal closure orders were signed for a long list of roads and recreational areas in these areas, including Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock Recreation Area, the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, Setzer Fish Hatchery, and more.

“We have had some major damage to our facilities, such as Sliding Rock, which is one of the most popular places for visitors,” he said. “Bridges are washed away in some places and have to be completely replaced in others. Roads that are important for bear hunters, riders and backpackers are inaccessible. “

There are more than 140 bridges in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, and a bridge engineer must evaluate each one to see if it is still safe to use.

“There are places where there used to be culverts that there is no trace,” he said. “Streets are halved. We had access to private apartments that were completely separated. “

The storm crashed a power line that ran up Davidson River Road with power poles into the creek and the road was blown up so the power company couldn’t get vehicles out to reposition the poles, Philipp said.

In press releases and Facebook posts, the forest service also reminds the public of the lingering threat from Fred – tree trunks in the rivers that could come loose at any time and underwater debris that increases the risk of returning to popular swimming spots. On the popular tubing route between the Coontree Picnic Area and the Sycamore Flats Picnic Area, which is currently closed, Forest Service has found a dozen traffic jams, and entire river channels have changed their course after Fred.

Skinny Dip Falls is unrecognizable after Fred (above) compared to the view before the storm (below). USFS photos

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Landslides and piles of rubble also increase the risk of outdoor recreation. It may be tempting to look at the damage, but for now it’s best to just stay away, Philipp said. There could be hazards that forest services have not yet discovered, and any accident resulting from exploring damaged areas could lead to an emergency call to rescue workers who are already overwhelmed with the flood recovery work.

“If you see storm damage, be it small landslides or blockages, just stay away,” he said. “Do not bypass temporary barriers or gates, because there may be cracks in the streets that we don’t know about or that we have not yet reached.”

Philipp assumes that the consequences of Fred will have a visible impact in the years to come. He compares the situation with that which occurred in the Croatan National Forest in 2018 after Hurricane Florence. Some of this damage is still not repaired.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these fixes took two to three years to come through,” he said of Fred.

As an added complication, more than a third of the people who would normally use North Carolina’s National Forests for restoration are currently in the west responding to a raging wildfire season. Additionally, the local staff working on rolling out projects related to the Great American Outdoors Act are the same ones who will be instrumental in the recovery of the storm.

After Fred, the Pisgah National Forest was by far the hardest hit public land. While the section of Blue Ridge Parkway between NC 215 and US 276 was closed for several days after the storm, it is now open again and any damage involved was small enough for Parkway staff to clean up the house.

However, the strip of land managed by the Blue Ridge Parkway is fairly narrow along most of the road, so some sites accessible via the parkway but managed by the Forest Service have had a significant impact, including Skinny Dip Falls, whose bridge has been swept away with the path of water completely changed from what it once was. The area is not closed, but the forest service considers access unsafe and advises visitors not to go there.

The only Blue Ridge Parkway facility closed after Fred is Price Lake, which is located near Blowing Rock. The storm damaged the gates of the dam that controls the water level and the lake is now empty. Repairs take time to plan and carry out.

The Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers also experienced extremely heavy rainfall and significant impact, with a full trail assessment underway. Visitors should be careful on paths, and be aware of high water levels and unstable soil.

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During Tropical Storm Fred, water rushes through the now closed Sliding Rock Recreation Area.

Even as the crews begin to work towards recovery, Philipps keeps an eye on the weather radar and said in an interview last week that he has “great concerns about future rainfall.”

At press time, rainfall is falling from Hurricane Ida – now downgraded to a tropical depression – in western North Carolina with up to six inches of rain forecast for some areas and even larger amounts possible in isolated areas.

“An inch of rain on top of what we already had could bring some of this damage to places we don’t want it, and if people are there it could have a bad result,” said Philipp.

One ray of hope, however, is the fact that infrastructure projects with a focus on climate resilience have weathered the record-breaking rainfalls. In recent years, the forest service has completed various projects with partners such as Trout Unlimited to improve the passages for aquatic organisms, and “however” these were not damaged by the flood, said Philipp.

“Water is in the east like fire in the west,” said Philipp. “It’s just as damaging and devastating when we have these storms. We try to celebrate these successes with an infrastructure that can withstand the storm. ”

Storm leads to forest closures

Formal closure orders have been signed for several areas in the Appalachian and Pisgah Ranger districts of the Pisgah National Forest. The use of these areas is prohibited until further notice.

The following closures apply in the Pisgah Ranger District:

• Entry of any kind is prohibited at: Looking Glass Falls Stairs, Lower Observation Deck and Pool; Sliding Rock Recreation Area; Setzer fish farming and wildlife education center; Wildlife Education Center parking lot and the first 0.01 miles of FSR 475C (Horse Cove Road); Wolf-Ford Horse Camp; and Davidson River Road from Cove Creek to Gloucester Gap (FSR 475)

• Vehicles are prohibited in: Sycamore Flats Recreation Area, north end of Art Loeb Trail, and Little East Fork Trailhead at Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp; and Cove Creek Group Camps (upper and lower).

• The following roads are closed to vehicles, cyclists and riders: Davidson River Road from Balsam Grove to Gloucester Gap (FSR 475); Courthouse Creek Street (FSR 140); and Pilot Mountain Road (FSR 229).

In the Appalachian Ranger District, the following roads are closed to all uses, including camping, and walkers, cyclists, and horse riders are only permitted on the closed roads if they use an open path that intersects a closed road: Stoney Fork Road (FSR 63); Big Ivy Road, Coleman Border (FSR 74); and South Toe Road behind the open Black Mountain Campground (FSR 472).

Other areas are not closed but may not be safe for normal recreational use. Log jams and sunken debris make swimming, tubing and boating, especially in the Pisgah Ranger District, much more dangerous than before Tropical Storm Fred. A dozen traffic jams found on the popular tubing route on the Davidson River from the Coontree Picnic Area and Sycamore Flats Picnic Area are one such example. Visitors should refrain from water recreation in the area and avoid areas with visible landslides or other storm damage.

Please visit www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nfsnc/alerts-notices for updated closure information. Direct questions to the District Office of Appalachian Ranger at This email address is being protected from spam bots! You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.689.9694, or the Pisgah Ranger District Office at This email address is being protected from spam bots! You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.877.3265.

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