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Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:57

A grand gorge

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out naturalistSomewhere in the deep reaches of Sugar and/or Grandfather Mountains, seeps, rivulets and trickles begin to mingle and grow and slide over the hard rocks coalescing into the headwaters of the Linville River.

The river slips over the rocks and begins a 2,000-foot descent. It’s a path carved in stone over millennia resulting in one of the most dramatic, beautiful, rugged and diverse wildernesses in the country — Linville Gorge Wilderness.

The river was known to the Cherokee as “Eeseeoh” — river of cliffs. Anglos christened the river Linville after William Linville who undoubtedly angered the Cherokee; they dispatched him to those happy fishing grounds in 1776.

The river’s plunge begins in earnest with Linville Falls, one of the most noted and notable waterfalls of the Blue Ridge, designated as a Natural Heritage Area in 1989. Linville Falls is a double cascade with a twist. After a wide 15-foot tumble, it disappears through a quartzite channel for about 60 feet to reappear as a thunderous 40-plus foot drop at the bottom.

After the falls and the Heritage Area, the Linville River snakes on downward for about 12 miles or so before ultimately disappearing into Lake James. Somewhere under the surface of this man-made reservoir is the confluence of the Linville and Catawba Rivers, erased for the benefit of mankind.

But backup. Between the falls and this un-dignified anthropogenic ending, the Linville River flows through nearly 12,000 acres of wilderness, which through the generosity and foresight of John D. Rockefeller has been preserved for perpetuity.

Unfortunately, preserved doesn’t necessarily mean protected. On the ground or on a map the boundaries of the wilderness area ensure that there will be no development within Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Development, however, does cozy right up to that boundary plus other anthropogenic practices and/or policies don’t necessarily recognize those boundaries. Invasive exotics and misdirected management practices are threatening the diversity and integrity of the Linville Gorge Wilderness area.

You have a unique opportunity to join Wild South in helping to preserve the wild integrity and biological diversity of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Wild South, with its home office in Asheville, is one of the premiere non-profit organizations working across the South (the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi) to protect and preserve the wild character and natural legacy of the South.

Wild South, through a grant from TogetherGreen, has been working this summer on a project removing invasive exotic plants from the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. This program has received such energetic support that September dates have been added. You can join Wild South on Sept. 5 to help in preserving this wonderful wilderness. You can volunteer for this project by signing up at https://docs.google.com/a/wildsouth.org/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGc3czlNMVV5d1QwaGhhOEs4aWdNVUE6MA#gid=0. Or go to Wild South’s website at www.wildsouth.org and follow the links. You can also contact Wild South by phone at 828.258.2667.

Wild South is also working with the USDA Forest Service and other agencies to learn about the role fire used to play in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Areas and to determine if prescribed burns may have a place in helping to restore federally listed species like mountain golden heather and Heller’s blazing star.

Two things can be guaranteed regarding volunteering with Wild South: you will learn a lot about the “whys’” and “whats” regarding the project you are working on; 100 percent of the work you do will actually help the ecosystem you are working in and you will most likely have a great time and meet new like-minded friends. Wait — that’s three. See, you get more for your money with Wild South.

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