Douglas Falls Trail?   James Smith
  Jun 01, 2006 18:50 PDT 

I may possibly have time this weekend to hit the Douglas Falls Trail off
of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I've been told it has some very nice stands of old growth large
hemlocks. Have any of you been there? Would it be worth the hike in to
see the trees? I like seeing waterfalls, but I'd rather see nice old

Also, if you've been there, is the hwa bad in that area yet?
RE: Douglas Falls Trail?   Robert Leverett
  Jun 02, 2006 04:13 PDT 


   Yes, several of us have been there. In the early 1990s, the area
around Douglas Falls was the inspiration for an environmental initiative
to get more of the Big Ivy watershed protected from logging. Old growth
was the reason. Within Big Ivy, estimates of the total old growth
acreage have ranged up to 3,000 acres. A researcher from Mars Hill
College once put the acreage at 6,000. It is nowhere near that high, but
more than just the area in the vicinity of Douglas Falls, which is
usually placed at around 700 acres. There are large hemlocks in there. I
also remember some large red oaks, sugar maples, and white ashes. We
measured trees in that area before the days of lazers and at one time I
had a sugar maple measured to 144 feet in height and claimed it as the
tallest one record. A local T.V. crew filmed it. It wasn't one of my
prouder moments. The sugar maple is probably between 120 and 125.
Anyway, lots to see there. You won't be disappointed.

RE: Douglas Falls Trail?   Joshua Kelly
  Jun 02, 2006 11:46 PDT 


According to the FS, those shots came from the Elk Pen Trail on Corner Rock
Cr. It was a place that the FS recomended as old-growth, but doesn't even
come close under a biological definition.


  From: Larry Baum 

I believe if you watch Last of the Mohicans you can see shots of him (DDL)
running through the Douglas Falls old-growth, that
part was not pure hemlock at all though in the movie.

Re: Douglas Falls Trail?   Jess Riddle
  Jun 02, 2006 16:35 PDT 

Hello James,

Yes, the hike in to see the trees is well worthwhile. The area around
Douglas Falls has some gorgeous hemlock and hemlock-sugar maple
stands, both with and without thick rhododendron understory. However,
the trail should receive credit for more than just the waterfall and
big hemlocks. The trail above the falls passes through groves of
large yellow birch and, close to the parkway, through a forest of
stunted, twisted, gnarled yellow birch and beech. The variety of
old-growth forests along the trail make it one of the best to visit in
the area.

As of last winter, adelgid was present in the stand, but had not yet
started causing significant declines.

Jess Riddle
RE: Douglas Falls Trail?   Joshua Kelly
  Jun 02, 2006 16:41 PDT 

James and ENTS,

The known acreage of old-growth forest in Big Ivey is currently 4001 acres,
1,564 of which is contiguous with and includes the Douglas Falls area. Alan
Smith (Mars Hill College Biologist) completed 3,700+ acres of the
delineations in 1998, and Rob Messick, Kevin Caldwell and myself did the
remainder of the work.

In my ramblings through The Douglas Falls area, my observations are the
following: The biggest hemlocks are not at Douglas Falls, but rather below
Douglas Falls in the Waterfall Cr. gorge. This area is super rugged,
canyon-like, and has no trail access, so bring a friend if you plan to go
there. Alan Smith lists hemocks up to 61" dbh, and black cherry up to 48"
dbh above the falls on Waterfall Creek and around Spruce Pine Ridge. I have
not visited that area, but I can say the these falls are much taller and
higher volume than Douglas Falls, and worth a visit. The most impressive
hardwoods I have seen roundabouts are on Carter Cr., which is a very
pleasant and rich section of forest - and perhaps, not truly primary. Also
of note, Alan Smith reported a red oak from the upper sections of the
Douglas Falls trail at 325 years. Anyone ever heard of an older Q. rubra?

HWA was first noted in the Douglas Falls Area last year and beetle releases
occured this year. It should be a high priority site for treatment: Alan
Smith lists the area of primary Hemlock Forest as "exceeding 200
acres.....the largest extent of hemlock in the Big Ivey Watershed". Hope
you have a great time on your visit, and take lots of pictures!

Happy Hunting,