20, 2004 10:09 PDT
The Shining Rock Wilderness lies on the north side of the Blue
Parkway in southwestern North Carolina. The approximately 18500
wilderness ranges in elevation from slightly below 3600' to
6030', and the
name comes from an outcrop of quartz on the main ridge in the
of the area was exposed by fires in 1925 that followed logging
in the area
and a subsequent set of fires in 1942.
has a pdf
document with more thorough background information on the area.
I stayed on the when I visited the area on Sunday, so my
the area is biased towards the larger streams and main ridge.
the wilderness, logging and fire disturbances to not appear to
as severe as implied by several accounts. Fire char occurs on
stumps in some areas, but unburned stumps and logs are
however, the extensive balds that cover the main ridge developed
the fires. The balds are typically shrubby and approximately
with catawba rhododendron, fetterbush, and blueberries being
Grasses still dominate some areas, but pin cherries are
beginning to grow
in those areas and red spruce are scattered in the more shrub
areas. In the transition zone at the lower edges of the balds
serviceberry, mountain maple and ferns form an open forest. In
forested area below that zone and extending done to
yellow birch and northern red oak are by far the most abundant
species. Yellow buckeye is common on some of the north facing
which have open understories. Boulderfields on south facing
have open understories under nearly pure northern red oak
rosebay rhododendron forms thickets on more moist but not rich
The lowest elevations in the area also have abundant
some richer coves have open understories and dense herbaceous
Trout lily is particularly prolific in some of the coves on the
of the Pigeon River, where it grows with mayapples and at least
species of violets. Tuliptree forms most of the canopy in those
the rest of the lower elevations. Yellow birch remains
the streams and black cherry commonly mixes with the tuliptrees.
lower elevation forest show much less structural diversity, and
the trees are less than six feet in circumference.
logging operations appear to have never reached the birch and
oak forests on the North Prong of Shining Creek.
Conifer distributions in the area are somewhat surprising.
common in the higher elevations, but do not form closed canopy
Hemlock are widespread and common, but occur only mixed amongst
The exception to that pattern may be in the vicinity of
on the headwaters of East Fork Pigeon River, which appears
lack of dominance by these two species over most of the area may
artifact of past disturbance history. Pines occur only rarely in
area, which could be a function of elevation more than
history. Seven white pines are present in a cluster on the East
Pigeon River and I saw one small one on the main ridge. The only
pines I saw were about two dozen young ones on a bald at about
first glance I thought they were pitch pines, but the cones are
two inches long and somewhat more narrow than pitch pine cones.
needles are two per fascicle, and four or five inches long. The
gray and uneven, similar to loblolly pine or pitch pine of
dimensions, and the branches are whorled. Given that they only
one small area near a road access, one possibility is that they
pines that someone planted, but I've never seen the species
before to be
sure. Other possibilities include pitch pines with highly
and shortleaf pine with exceptional bark and structure.
Species Height Cbh Topo feature Age of Area Comment
Birch, Black ~84' 8'2" E. Fork Pigeon R. Remnant By far
largest seen of
Birch, Yellow 67.5' NA Greasy Cove Prong Cut edge Typical large
Birch, Yellow ~77' 8'11.5" Greasy Cove Prong Cut edge Near
above, on of
Buckeye 122.9' >10' Shining Creek Remnant One of the largest
Cherry, Black 109.3' NA Shining Creek 60-80 years Typical
Cherry, Black 107.9' 2'7" E. Fork Pigeon R. 60-80 years
Fir, Fraser 39.2' 2'9" Shining Rock Ledge ? Semi-forested
Fir, Fraser 46.5' 4'0" Shining Rock Ledge ~80 years No
Hemlock 120.1'+ NA E. Fork Pigeon R. Remnant Emergent, large for
Maple, Sugar NA 9'6" N. Prong Shining Cr. Uncut Some
Oak, N. Red NA 12'0" Grassy Cove Gap Uncut Many slightly
Oak, N. Red ~101' 11'11" N. Prong Shining Cr. Uncut Many
Rhodo, Catawba NA 1'5" Shining Rock Ledge ? Uprooted,
Spruce, Red NA 9'9" Shining Rock Ledge ? Largest near
White basswood, beech, yellow buckeye, black cherry, eastern
shagbark hickory, black locust, cucumbertree magnolia, sugar
northern red oak, white pine, and tuliptree all exceed 100' in
the areas I saw. Additionally, pignut hickory, red maple, and
may reach 100' occasionally. I saw some tuliptrees that probably
130', but I don't see much potential for significantly taller
Yellow buckeye is the only other species that might reach 130'
A Rucker Index of slightly over 110' would not be surprising.