Dry Creek, NC   Joshua Kelly
  Mar 14, 2006 16:10 PST 

Dear ENTS,

I have been an interested visitor of the ENTS website for over a year now.
I am a botanist who spends 50-80 days a year in the forests of the Blue
Ridge, mostly in Western NC. I have been intrigued with the infatuation of
many ENTS with canopy heights and the Rucker Index as a way of assessing the
productivity of growing sites to the point where I have recently acquired a
laser range finder to go with my Suunto clinometer. All measurements listed
below were made with laser and clinometer using the sine method. I caution
readers that while my measurements are consistent, I still do not consider
them that accurate: I rate them only to within +/- 3 ft. of the actual
height of the tree.

Dry Creek flows southwest from Green Knob to join Big Creek in the Shelton
Laurel area of Madison County, NC. This section of the Bald Mountains is
composed of meta-sedimentary rock of great complexity. Most of these
substrates are acidic, but two, Sandsuck Formation and the Walden Creek
Group, contain some calcium bearing siltstone. The forests in the middle
elevations of Dry Creek benefit from an exposure of Wilhite Formation, a
calcareous member of the Walden Creek Group, that parallels the bottom of
the cove between 2700-3800’ elevation. This section of forest is quite
rich, not so much as some sites that have amphibolite substrates, or Brevard
Fault Zone sites, but it is certainly some of the richest forest in Madison
County. On any day in late April over 20 species of spring wildflowers will
be blooming. The section of creek between 2800 and 3100 feet is the most
diverse. Here, a rich cove forest dominated by tulip poplar and also
including basswood, black cherry, sugar maple, buckeye, red maple and a
significant amount of shagbark hickory covers the gentle slopes of the cove,
while a nice montane oak-hickory forest intergrades on nearby south facing
slopes. Poplars in this area commonly exceed 130’. The surrounding ridges
harbor a significant acreage of old-growth forest, but most of the growing
sites in those forests are less protected and productive than the second
growth cove bottoms of Dry Creek and Big Creek. The result is much larger
diameters in the old growth area, and taller trees in second growth. A
comparison would be an interesting project.

Species                           cbh                              height
white pine                       NA                              141.6’
white pine                       NA                               149.2’
tulip poplar                     9.68’                             132.5’
tulip poplar                      NA                               145.4’
tulip poplar                      NA                               156.7’
n. red oak                       NA                               113’
n. red oak                      11.6’                             110.6’
mockernut hickory            NA                               128.6’
black cherry                   6.59’                             127.6’
hemlock                         NA                                100.6’
white basswood               NA                                128.3’
pignut hickory                 10’                                124.9’
shagbark hickory             6.2’                                133.7’
sycamore                       NA                                 108.9’

Rucker Index: 127.15

I think that given more time and more experience, the Rucker Index for Dry
Creek could top 135 and the Big Creek Drainage as a whole could top 140. I
have measured a black cherry in old-growth on Black Pine Ridge that is 8.45
cbh x 141’ – maybe the RI for Shelton Laurel as a whole, including the huge
hemlocks on Hickey Fork, could top 145. I’ll keep yuns posted.

Josh Kelly
  Mar 14, 2006 19:37 PST 

Hey Josh-
That's a great report. What is the access to Dry Fork? I couldn't find
anything on any maps, and at the bottom of the cove there are some houses, I
wondered what way one could get in there. I live in Madison County, but I've
only gone over to Shelton Laurel a handful of times- it's beautiful but I
haven't found much big or tall there yet. Where on Hickey Fork are the big
hemlocks? I'd love to see them. The Dry Creek area is the west side of Rich
Mountain in Unicoi County where one of the largest white pines known grew.
Re: Dry Creek, NC   Joshua Kelly
  Mar 14, 2006 22:54 PST 


The access to Dry Creek is off of Big Creek Rd., which forks off of NC 212
at the Carmen Church. When the road turns to dirt bear right past some
houses and a sawmill just before the ford of dry creek. Dry Creek is in
public ownership, just the very bottom is private and the right-of-way is
public. There is another Dry Creek on the Tennessee side of the Balds in
Greene County that I have not explored. The Big Hemlocks on Hickey Fork are
in almost every drainage of the East Prong above 3600'. The biggest
hemlocks are on the upper East Prong between whiterock and Baxter Cliff.
There was a hollow, 6 ft. dbh tree up there that fell several years ago.
The largest remaining individual up there is 131 cm dbh. As of last year
there was no HWA in that stand.

How long have you lived in the county? Let me know if you want to check out
some of the nice local areas some time.

RE: Dry Creek, NC   Robert Leverett
  Mar 15, 2006 05:38 PST 


   I second Michael Davie's praise. Great report and welcome aboard. It
would be great if you and Michael Davie could join forces to cover a
different area of the southern Blue Ridge more intensively.

   The ENTS data continually reinforces what a magnificent growing
machine the tuliptree is. There is just no other eastern hardwood that
can consistently match its great height. However, we're still shy of a
legitimate 180-foot poplar. Maybe you'll be the first to confirm one.

RE: Dry Creek, NC   Joshua Kelly
  Mar 15, 2006 06:19 PST 


I agree that it would be valuable to sample more of the Southern Blue Ridge.
Certainly, many areas had excellent growing sites. My old-timer neighbors
used to go on and on about the 11 ft. in diameter poplar that grew on Meadow
Fork before it was cut in 1917. Apparently people used to drive from
Asheville to see it. I would be thrilled to find a picture of it.

By the way, I'm looking forward to the EOGC and hope to meet you there!

Re: Dry Creek, NC   Jess Riddle
  Mar 15, 2006 19:27 PST 

Hello Josh,

Thanks for the description of the forests on Dry Creek. The heights
impress me for both species of hickories, and the black cherry on
Black Pine Ridge may be a very significant tree; the 141' height
essentially ties it with the tallest we have measured.

Having the geological context for the forest is great. I didn't
realize Madison County had substantial areas of metasedimentary
substrate. I'd love to see those sites sometime.

Jess Riddle
metasedimentary rock    Joshua Kelly
   Mar 16, 2006 16:07 PST 

Hi Jess,

The state line between Allan Gap and Devil Fork Gap is a large area of
metasedimentary rock - much of it producing acidic soils. The sweet soiled
places are fun to find. I like to get out, especially week days, so it would
be fun to get together with you and other WNC ENTS and do a measuring blitz
of Green Ridge/Black Pine Ridge.