Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Graham County. North Carolina
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is located about 15 miles from Robbinsville in the western part of Graham County.  The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is part of the 14,000-acre Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. This area lies in the watersheds of Little Santeetlah and Slickrock creeks, which are separated by the ridge between Stratton Bald and Haoe.

"A walk through Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a journey back in time through a magnificent forest with towering trees as old as 400 years. Some enormous yellow-poplars are over 20 feet in circumference and stand 100 feet tall. The floor is carpeted with a garden of wildflowers, ferns, and moss-covered logs from fallen giants.

The only way to see the impressive memorial forest is on foot. The figure-eight Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail covers 2 miles and has two loops: the 1-mile lower loop passes the Joyce Kilmer Memorial plaque, and the upper -mile loop swings through Poplar Cove, a grove of the largest trees. The trailhead parking area has a flush toilet and picnic tables. No camping or overnight parking is allowed.

The memorial forest is beautiful in all seasons. Many wildflower show off their blooms in the spring before tree leaves open and shade the forest floor. Summer is wet, green, and lush -- a time when the forest is noticeably cooler than the parking area. Fall signals the gradual color change from greens to red, orange, yellow, and maroon. Then the leaves fall revealing the "bones" of the mountains."

The poplar grove in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Graham County, North Carolina, in the winter, showing the incredible crowns of large old tuliptrees.  Photo by Michael Davie.


Joyce Kilmer beetle release   Will Blozan
  Apr 28, 2004 18:35 PDT 

ENTS, NPS and others,

Today, myself, Brian Hinshaw and Mike Riley climbed old-growth eastern
hemlocks in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to release predator beetles to
combat the hemlock woolly adelgid. HWA is very severe there and massive
mortality is imminent. dead trees were seen when approaching the forest and
nearly all trees were in decline. We climbed three trees to the top
(125-142' tall) and released 2000 beetles in each tree. A supplied beetle
infested branch was "tucked" into the foliage of the tree and the remaining
beetles in the bucket were brushed out onto a small hammock to allow them to
disperse at their own pace. Many of the beetles flew at once and the hope is
that a upper canopy release will help distribute the insects further from
the release site into the surrounding trees. We will be climbing at another
site near Highlands, NC for another release next week.

Appalachian Arborists releasing beetles.  
Photo by Will Blozan

I could not help feeling hopeful for the hemlocks, and was excited by the
"spunkiness" of the beetles and their immense task ahead. Go get 'em little

Will Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist

Joyce Kilmer beetle release   Terry Seyden
  April 30, 2004 4:17 PM

From: terry 
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 4:17 PM
Subject: [HWAdelgid] hats off to the tree climbers

I tagged along to Joyce Kilmer Wednesday to observe the beetle
release; I share Will's concern about the adelgid; the infestation was
much worse than I expected to see. Will took some excellent digital
images while in the top of the tree and I included them in a news
release we issued this afternoon about the Joyce Kilmer beetle
release. You can read the release and view Will's excellent
photography at the national forests in north carolina

The news release is at

and the photos are in

Terry Seyden
Public Affairs Officer
National Forests in North Carolina

President, Eastern Native Tree Society
ISA Certified Arborist

Joyce Kilmer again   Michael Davie
  Apr 29, 2004 15:52 PDT 
After seeing Will's email, I thought I should go ahead and finish this. I hope the beetle release takes.

A few weeks ago, I took a friend out to Joyce Kilmer and got some measurements while there. It was a great time to go, the leaves were still mostly down, and the wildflowers were blasting. I've never been at just this time of year, It was great to see the herb layer in mostly full bloom. What wasn't great was seeing how advanced the adelgid is after such a short time, and how bad many of the hemlocks look. WhenI went on a short bushwhack through a hemlock-dominated stand, everything below was flecked with cottony bits, as was I after traveling through it.

Since more detail has been requested in field reports, I'll include a little more information. Some of the understory plants I saw included dwarf ginseng, at least four species of trillium, cucumber root, Jack-in-the-pulpit, bead lily, trout lily, bellwort, dwarf iris, wild ginger, spring beauty, tall phlox, mayapple, bloodroot, squirrel corn, and, uh- that's probably enough. Maybe I should use the Latin names. Suffice to say at least some of these flowers are indicators of sweet soil.

These numbers are from in the Poplar Cove loop, and a few from the surrounding forest:
Tuliptree- 12'6"-147.4
Tuliptree-15'1"- 164.5
Tuliptree-13'2"- 152.9
Cucumbertree-13'-143.9 and 143.8
Northern Red-13'3"-131.3
Tuliptree-15'8"- 155.1

The 15'5" tuliptree was off of the loop in some kind of plot, the tree had been climbed by somebody, evinced by the throwline left in the tree to reset a rope later. A number of the trees had dendrometer bands around the trunks. The cucumbertree is the same one I'd measured before to 146.5 in January of last year, I'm not sure where the discrepancy comes from.

After leaving the memorial forest, we went driving up Santeetlah Creek, I had not been up there for many years, all I remembered was that there were white pines and alot of old hemlocks. Some of the lower parts of the creek had some fairly young, moderately tall pines. I sure remembered the old hemlocks correctly, I don't think there are many places in the Southern Apps outside of Cataloochee with such a large area of big, old hemlocks. I don't think that they'll be as tall as some of the Cataloochee hemlocks, most of what I saw looked in the 120s to 130s, but some are fairly big, and very old. I was having trouble staying on the road, it's just beautiful there. 

There's a few flats, but most of it's pretty steep. It's horrible to think of this place after the adelgid gets through with it. Maybe the pseudoscymnus will help. I'm going to try hard to do a camping trip there sometime this year to at least get some idea of what's there before it's possibly gone.

Besides shooting into crowns a little, I only measured two trees there, one white pine across the creek at 159.9', and one hemlock at 127'.

Michael Davie

RE: Joyce Kilmer again   Will Blozan
  Apr 30, 2004 06:05 PDT 

I, too, was floored by the fine hemlocks on Santeelah Creek. I saw many
white pines that looked to be over 160'. I roughed one hemlock off the trail
to the Poplar Cove to the mid+ 150's. Didn't you measure one years ago just
below 160'? I measured that cuke back in 1995 to 141' with
cross-triangulation. The whole area warrants a thorough ENTS saturation
before the hemlocks go down their path to the soil (if the beetles don't
work). I suspect a possible hemlock height record and white pines over 170'.
Do you know anything about the northern hardwoods area of Kilmer? I saw some
VERY nice buckeye down low and wonder what lies above.

Grassy Branch area (Joyce Kilmer Wilderness)   Jess Riddle
  Jun 13, 2004 17:56 PDT 

I had the day off from work on Friday, so I decided to explore some uncut
coves in Joyce Kilmer Wilderness and measure a few other trees along roads
on the way. The wilderness area contains 5,000 uncut acres in the section
of the North Carolina mountains immediately east of the Tennessee state
line and south of the Smokies. The site is one of the areas most often
cited in lists of old-growth and big tree sites in the southeast, and the
grove of large tuliptrees receive the most attention, which Michael Davie
posted a description of a few months back.

I focused on the two drainages north of Poplar Cove since they contain the
largest flats in the wilderness area outside of Poplar Cove, are at
moderate elevation, and have sheltered north facing slopes. The Stratton
Bald Trail follows the main ridge line above the drainages, passes through
some dry oak forest with white oak and chestnut oak and larger areas with
northern red oaks. The northern red oaks were large for their topographic
position with many trees over three feet diameter and approaching 100'
tall. New York fern and hayscented fern are common on the forest floor
under the oaks, a moderate variety of other herbaceous plans grow among
them includeding horse balm and solomon's seal.

The drainage immediately north of Poplar Cove flows due east from Obediah
Gap, and maintains steep side slopes until reaching broad flats at the
intersection with a tributary at around 2900'. The forest along the
drainage is classic rich cove with white ash, sugar maple, and white
basswood forming the main canopy. Slightly lower, silverbell is common
and black cherry, yellow buckeye, and northern red oak also occur
scattered in the canopy. Tuliptree forms a significant proportion of the
overstory closer to the flats. The understory is open, except in canopy
gaps, and the dense herbaceous layer consists of false nettle, canada
violet, trilliums, foamflower, black cohosh, blue cohosh, may apple, sweet
cicely, meadow rue, and others. The broader part of the cove at the
confluence with the other cove was supported somewhat younger forest, and
appeared slightly drier; consequently, most of the trees of significant
size occurred slightly upstream of the flat.

Grassy Branch, the first named drainage to the north, contains a gentle
bowl at approximatly 3350' formed by the intersection of several shallow,
steam north facing coves and a pair of better defined east facing coves.
Most of the gentle section of the bowl appears relatively dry with
northern red oak, sourwood, and red maple in the canopy and an understory
of dying hemlocks. Around the endges of the bowl, the forest becomes
progressively richer, and rich cove forest similar to that east of Obediah
Gap covers the slopes above.

The northern red oaks create by far the greatest visual impact of any
species in the area often dominating a section of forest in a manner
reminiscent of the cherrybark oaks in the Congaree. The two coves support
by far the most impressive assemblage of northern red oaks I have seen
anywhere. In terms of the frequency that the trees are known to reach the
sizes they obtain in Joyce Kilmer, the northern red oaks may be more
significant than the tuliptrees in Poplar Cove. Both species in the
wilderness reach approximately the same proportion of the maximum size of
known forest grown individuals, but the largest known northern red oak is
much more of an outlier than the largest known tuliptree. Unfortunately
many of the large northern red oaks appear to be in decline with some
showing crown die back and most supported fungal growth.

Needmore Road
Paw Paw 2'5"

Santeetlah Creek Road
Basswood, White 9'5" x ~116'
Hickory, Pignut 11'1.5" x 142.4'
Tuliptree 11'+ x 147.4'     Probably over 150', older than surrounding

Wolf Laurel Road
Cherry, Pin 5'8.5" x ~68'
Fir, Fraser 4'4" x 62.2'    May be planted. ID?

Joyce Kilmer Wilderness
Stratton Bald Trail
Oak, Northern Red 17'5" x ~110'     Swollen base
Oak, White 12'0" x 89'     On ridge top

Unnamed drainage east of Obediah Gap
Ash, White 12'2" x ~116'
Cherry, Black 7'11" x 130.8'     Poor shot, vertical gave 134'
Locust, Black 6'0" x ~121'
Maple, Sugar 11'3" x 121.8'     Only large one seen, Poor shot, vertical
gave 131'
Oak, Northern Red 15'7" x ~113'
Oak, Northern Red 16'1.5" x ~119'
Oak, Northern Red 17'0" x ~108'     Swollen Base
Oak, Norhtern Red 18'1" x ~110'     Broken crown
Tuliptree 15'9" x 145.8'     Poor shot

Grassy Branch
Ash, White 11'3" x 122.6'     Poor shot, vertical gave 131'
Basswood, White 11'7" x 118.0'
Hickory, Bitternut 6'2" x 121.3'     Poor shot
Hickory, Bitternut 9'1" x 134.3'+
Locust, Black 8'5.5"     Broken crown
Magnolia, Cucumbertree 10'8.5" x 110.0'
Magnolia, Cucumbertree 11'7" x 117.9'+
Oak, Northern Red 16'2" x ~122'     Columnar
Oak, Northern Red 17'10.5" x ~116'
Oak, Northern Red 18'11" x 123.9'     Poor shot, vertical gave 129'
Serviceberry 3'6" x 82.4'     Poor shot, vertical gave 87'
Sourwood 4'6.5" x ~81'
Sourwood 5'4" x ~81'

Jess Riddle