The 23-acre Whitewater Fire was among the smaller of the nearly 30 fires that burned through tens of thousands of acres in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest this fall, but the fire completely destroyed the staircase and access facility to the Whitewater Falls observation deck.
The terrain is steep, rendering the site unsafe and dangerous to the public, the U.S. Forest Service decided. Both Whitewater Falls and the Foothills Trail that connects to the falls are included in the closure.
“I regret the impact that this closure causes for the 75,000-plus people who visit this site every year. However, safety must be our first consideration,” said District Ranger Mike Wilkins.
Before rehabilitation can begin, the Forest Service must secure funding. It is working with the Federal Highways Administration toward that end.
The fire, which began in early November, cost $60,000 to fight. Its cause is still under investigation.