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SAHC purchases Roaring Creek headwater property

Contributed • Updated Nov 28, 2017 at 7:03 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — Roan Mountain is popular with the lovers of the outdoors for a wide variety of reasons, including the fact it offers plenty of clean mountain streams in which native trout and wildlife thrive.

More and more fishermen have traveled to Carter County to fish the many different trout streams in the county, including those in Roan Mountain.

That trend should continue with the purchase of land surrounding native trout waters on the slopes of the Roan Highlands in neighboring Avery County, N.C. The land is very close to Carter County and can be seen from portions of the popular Appalachian Trail as it winds through Carter County

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy announced on Monday that it had purchased 142 acres of property in the Upper Roaring Creek Valley to protect the clean mountain streams and habitat for native trout and other Roan Mountain wildlife.

The Avery County tract contain a portion of Roaring Creek and its tributaries as well as undeveloped, forested land that adjoins Pisgah National Forest.

“It is simply magical,” said Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, referring Roaring Creek. “If I were a Hellbender, this is the stream I would want to live in.”

Because of the exceptional water resources, the conservancy was awarded a N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant to purchase the land. The property includes headwater streams of Upper Roaring Creek, and a high-quality native brook trout stream, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The purchase will protect water quality and aquatic habitats of the Nolichucky/Cane/Toe Rivers Conservation Area, which includes at-risk aquatic species, like the Eastern Hellbender, and federally endangered species, including the Appalachian Elktoe mussel.

“This project was essentially about the water and the watershed — a high priority for conservation on a big scale,” Crockett said.

Conservation of the mountainous land also protects habitat for birds and other animals as well as scenic views. Rising to 4,700 feet, the forested acreage can be seen from public recreation areas in the Roan, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

Approximately one-third of the land lies within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. According to the Audubon Society, Roan Mountain is one of the most important sites for northern saw-whet owls. Other key species include: alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, red crossbill, brown creeper, winter wren, veery, Canada warbler, golden-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler and golden-crowned kinglet.

The land also offers connection to vestiges of history and local mountain culture. The conservancy purchased the property from descendants of Jerry Hughes, who moved into the valley in the late 1800s. Reportedly, Hughes named the stream “Roaring Creek” because it was so noisy.

“The land has been in my family close to 100 years,” said landowner Chris Hughes. “I believed that the SAHC would be a good route for us to go, and would preserve what to me is a sacred mountain for future generations long after we all are dust. This is my heritage, it is in my very genetic code, and no one can possibly know how much this place means to me.”

The acquisition builds upon the SAHC’s conservation work across the Roaring Creek Valley and Roan Highlands. Over the past several decades, SAHC and its partners have worked to conserve tens of thousands of acres in this area.

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