In October, SAHC purchased the summit of Blackrock Mountain in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County, with more than 250 surrounding acres. We plan to hold the property and manage it as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands.
“All you need to do is stand at the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike the trail from Waterrock Knob, to appreciate protecting Blackrock Mountain,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “The 5,700 ft peak contains rare spruce-fir forest and two headwater tributaries that flow down its slopes. We are so proud to have preserved this view for all to enjoy.”
The Blackrock Mountain summit is clearly visible from the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The entire property can be seen in the foreground view from the Plott Balsam overlook (mile post 458), the Waterrock Knob visitor center (mile post 451.2), and multiple locations along the parkway on the drive north from Waterrock Knob.
The tract’s proximity to and visibility from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the high-elevation forest communities and pristine headwater sources found on the site, made it a priority for conservation. Two headwater tributaries of Blackrock Creek originate on the property and flow into Blackrock Creek, which empties into Soco Creek.
A publicly-accessible hiking trail originates on the Blue Ridge Parkway below the Waterrock Knob overlook, and the Blackrock Mountain summit purchased by SAHC contains a destination vantage point reached via this trail. Earlier in October, we led our Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership group hike to the Blackrock Mountain summit to enjoy clear long-distance views of the surrounding ridgelines. We plan to lead similar hikes to the area in the future.
The Cherokee nation owns land to the north in the Qualla Boundary, and the newly protected tract adjoins other conservation lands: SAHC’s 60-acre Blackrock Ridge tract (protected in 2010), the Sylva Watershed (protected with a conservation easement held by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee), and The Nature Conservancy’s Plott-Balsam Preserve.
“The efforts of multiple conservation partners highlight the priority of habitats, scenic views, and water quality of the Plott Balsam Mountains,” added Pugliese.