Pisgah National Forest grown with Mills River purchase

Karen Chavez / Asheville Citizen Times

MILLS RIVER – Just in time for spring trout season, anglers get an extra section of pristine river to savor.

And the gift extends to all nature lovers who now get to roam free on a new – and critical — slice of Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service and South Asheville landowner Tom Oreck recently closed on a decade-long effort to protect the 84-acre Big Creek Lodge Tract in the Mills River Recreation Area of Henderson County.

Recreation and conservation groups have been concerned about the inholding for decades, which had been slated for an 86-home subdivision.

The land provides access to the North Fork of the Mills River, which contributes to drinking water for some 140,000 residents of Henderson and Buncombe counties. It is considered pristine delayed harvest trout waters, and is home to rare and threatened aquatic species, including the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe and the eastern hellbender salamander.

The $1.56 million tract prized for having a wilderness-like setting close to the cities of Asheville and Hendersonville is an addition to the Pisgah National Forest.

“It is very significant in part due to its location, completely surrounded by Pisgah National Forest and very nearby the Mills River Campground and Recreation Area,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of the Hendersonville-based Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

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